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Archive of April 3, 2009

Kansas parishioners plan ahead for future priest or religious life vocation

Wichita, Kan., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Holy Name Parish in Winfield, Kansas has never produced a vocation to the priesthood and hasn’t had a vocation to the religious life in recent years. But that isn’t stopping parishioners from praying and planning for one, or two, or more.

 

The parish has started what could be described as a college fund for the next young man who begins seminary work or the next young woman who enters the religious life.

 

Julie Toon, a convert of about seven years, said the parish will be hosting its third dinner Saturday, April 4, to raise money for their future vocation.

 

The dinner does two things, she said. “Not only will it help pay for books when they go to school or enter the religious life, it also increases awareness of vocations in the parish.”

 

The parish has been praying for vocations, Toon said, adding that the prayer and events, such as the dinner, help young men and women understand the parish’s support for religious vocations.

 

“We’re hoping by the time we have a vocation there will be enough money in the fund to help them out considerably,” she said.

 

Julie and her husband, Tim, are chairpersons of the prime rib dinner which will be held after the 5:30 p.m. Mass Saturday, April 4, in the parish. Several parishioners are acting as chefs for the event. A silent auction will also be held.

 

“The hallmark of this event is vocation awareness,” said Fr. Bernie Gorges, pastor of Holy Name. “And second to that is the fund.”

 

Father Gorges said he wants parishioners to understand that vocations to the priesthood and religious life come from normal families.

 

“We want parents to realize that vocations are possible in their own families,” he said.

 

Guest speakers will be Father Michael Simone, director of Vocations for the Diocese of Wichita, and Jim and Connie Armour, whose daughter is a nun.

 

Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper from the diocese of Wichita.

 

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Nurse shares lessons learned on suffering from Columbine

Denver, Colo., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Columbine massacre of April 20, 1999, in unincorporated Jefferson County remains the worst mass shooting to have ever taken place at an American high school.

 

Nurse Kari Goerke remembers the moment she learned about Columbine with clarity.

 

“I can tell you where I was standing, what I was wearing, what was going on at the hospital, just like if it were this morning,” she said.

 

The tragedy, in which Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed a dozen classmates and a teacher and wounded more than 20 others before taking their own lives, is approaching its 10th anniversary.

 

Goerke, chief nursing officer at Swedish Medical Center, was the head operating room nurse the day of the shooting. On March 18 she spoke about that day with a crowd of 90 gathered at the Denver Country Club for the ENDOW Catholic Professio-nal Women’s Luncheon.

 

ENDOW, short for Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women, is a nonprofit organization that promotes the new feminism of the Catholic Church.

 

“We wanted to do something with the Lenten theme of suffering,” Terry Polakovic, co-founder and executive director of ENDOW, told the audience. “We wanted to honor that and recognize it.”

 

“All of us suffer,” noted the soft-spoken Goerke. A cradle Catholic and a member of ENDOW, the nurse said there is a reason for suffering.

 

“It’s part of (the) divine plan to help us grow in our faith,” she said with conviction.

 

Recalling the fateful day of the massacre, Goerke said that after learning of it from a phone call, she was grateful for the few moments she had as she walked down a long hallway toward her work “to reflect, pray and plan.”

 

The hospital received four of the injured students.

 

Because the victims don’t wish to be defined by the tragedy, Goerke kept their identities private. As she remembered the details of that day, she often had to pause to let tears pass.

 

The first boy Goerke saw had a bullet wound to the spine and through his abdomen. The first girl she saw had a gunshot to her right chest.

 

“I remember taping the rings on her fingers,” Goerke said, as she described prepping the teen for surgery. Knowing she would need to use clothing and jewelry to help identify the youths, Goerke removed the girl’s watch and put it in her pocket so she could give it to the young patient’s family later.

 

A second girl was reported to have multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.

 

“The second girl was awake and sobbing,” Goerke said. “She didn’t really know what had happened to her. We really didn’t know what had happened to her. She looked like she had little knife and bullet wounds all over her chest.”

 

The wounds, Goerke learned, were caused by shrapnel from one of the improvised bombs that went off. It was the first time she had witnessed such an injury.

 

“We hadn’t been in a war zone before,” she said.

 

To calm her young patient, Goerke talked to her about the recent prom and about the then-upcoming graduation.

 

The fourth victim, another boy, needed surgery on his chest, abdomen and spine, and repair to his left arm.

 

Despite the life and death urgency of the work, ringing phones, anxious family members in waiting rooms, and police and media descending on the hospital, Goerke described an aura of professionalism and calm.

 

“I thought it was going to be chaotic, but it really wasn’t,” she said. “(The staffers) all knew what they were doing and were taking care of their jobs and moving forward.”

 

The community support from within and outside the hospital was tremendous, Goerke said. People with elective surgeries rescheduled them to free up operating rooms. Hospitals sent equipment, people and supplies.  Housekeeping and maintenance staff guarded doors to protect the patients. Doctors who had heard about the tragedy simply showed up.

 

“It was a tremendous relief to walk into the ED (emergency department) and see a wall of white coats,” Goerke said.

 

All four patients lived. All the victims treated at hospitals lived. It’s one of the miracles Goerke counted that day.

 

Why the tragedy happened is due to sin, Goerke said, noting that with free will comes the choice to do good or evil. We are all guilty of sin, she emphasized. And Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection is the instrument God used to redeem us of our sin.

 

“Christ’s suffering was the perfect example of what we’re supposed to do,” Goerke said. “It showed obedience, humility and service.

 

“God showed us,” she added, “that there’s nothing he wouldn’t want us to do he hasn’t already done himself.”

 

Noting that the Acts of the Apostles (14:22) says, “through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of heaven,” Goerke said, “(God) is telling us we are made worthy through suffering.”

 

Suffering can transform us, strengthen our faith and unite us with Christ, she said.

 

With their intuition, empathy and desire to connect with people, women especially are called to help others carry their crosses and share Christ’s redemptive love, Goerke said.

 

“That is the triumph of this tragedy in us and in others, and is our salvation,” she said.

 

Printed with permission from the Denver Catholic Register, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Denver.

 

 

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New CNA column helps readers understand the teachings of Vatican II

CNA STAFF, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Even though January 25, 2009 marked the 50th anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, many Catholics remain unsure as to what the Council Fathers truly taught and intended.  Louie Verrecchio, CNA’s newest columnist plans to explore the teachings of the council to help Catholics comprehend their authentic application in the life of the Church today.

 

With a particular focus on current events and the challenges commonly faced by Catholics worldwide, Verrecchio’s column, “Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II” contains excerpts taken directly from the Council documents.  As such, the columns will serve to dispel the many false “spirit of Vatican II” interpretations that are all too frequently presented as indicating the “mind of the Council Fathers.”  

 

Verrecchio, author of the “Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II” adult faith formation series, explains that his commentary “will lead readers to a deeper understanding of the conciliar texts as illuminated by the light of sacred Tradition; applying what Pope Benedict XVI calls ‘a hermeneutic of continuity and authentic reform.’ Many will come away from the Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II columns motivated to at long last answer the call of the Holy Fathers to explore the Council documents directly in order to unearth the beautiful treasures of faith contained therein.”

 

Verrecchio’s column will be updated each Thursday and can be found in the menu box at the bottom of the page or by following this link:  http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/columns.php?sub_id=22

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Catholics begin ‘ongoing dialogue’ after university’s porn screening canceled

College Park, Md., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - The University of Maryland at College Park has canceled a screening of a “hard-core” pornographic film after state lawmakers threatened to cut university funding. The campus’ Catholic chaplain, warning against assumptions that pornography is generally accepted, reports that Catholics have been very involved in the “ongoing dialogue” about the cancellation.

The film’s screening was to take place at the school’s student union and had been approved by a student programming committee. The student union had planned to have Planned Parenthood give a pre-screening presentation on “safe sex,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

UM President C.D. Mote Jr. decided to cancel the screening after negotiations between state Senate officials and the university.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the General Assembly will not support the screening of pornographic movies at a taxpayer-funded state college.

“That's really not what Maryland residents send their young students to college campus for, to view pornography,” he told the Baltimore Sun.

State Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Republican, suggested amending the state’s annual budget to deny funding to any higher education institution that allows a public screening of a film marketed as an “XXX-rated” film, unless it is part of an official academic course.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Senators had debated the evils of pornography and the First Amendment for much of Wednesday morning, but discussions had to be repeatedly postponed as groups of young school children on field trips entered the Senate gallery.

"If you kids are wondering what we're doing, we're waiting for you to leave the room," Miller explained to the children. "We're going to talk about some bad stuff."

The Baltimore Sun reports that the student union had not received complaints about the film, with many people on campus being apparently unaware it had been scheduled.

The pornographic movie, which cost $10 million to produce, was provided to the university for free.

The event was criticized by several religious leaders.

Fr. Kyle Ingels, chaplain of the school’s Catholic Student Center, said pornographic films are “degrading to the human person” and “run counter to our efforts to try to form people to be men and women who will go out and contribute to society.”

Jessica Schulte, a Baptist Collegiate Minister on campus, told the Baltimore Sun she did not believe pornography is “appropriate” in any context but she believed it is “legal and is protected by our right to free speech, so from that standpoint the university is certainly ‘allowed’ to show it.”

CNA spoke with Fr. Ingels in a Thursday phone interview.

He said the Catholic Student Center had been “very involved” in the “ongoing dialogue” about the event. He reported that the center had engaged in many calls, e-mails and conversations with students, parents, faculty and administrators about the controversy.

Explaining the purpose of the student center’s programs on Catholic sexual ethics, Fr. Ingels said:

“We want to promote a healthy dialogue about human sexuality. We believe it is a beautiful gift from God.”

He explained there are Bible studies run by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) which address the “big three” issues: sobriety, chastity and excellence.

A student center group named “Triple X” discusses Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. According to a Catholic Student Center bulletin, the Xs in the group’s name refer to the words “Exposed, Expound, Example.” The bulletin says the group helps students “discover the truth of REAL love.”

Another student center group, “Girls Gone Mild,” is a women’s discussion group focused specifically on chastity and purity, Fr. Ingels said. The group started last year and is currently reading a work by Bishop Fulton Sheen, the famous Catholic evangelist.

Fr. Ingels challenged the notion that collegians generally accept pornography, telling CNA:

“We have to be careful about assuming that this is just a normal part of what students accept in being on a college campus.

“There are a lot of students on campus who don’t find this acceptable and find it insulting They were very insulted that the university and the student panel find [pornography] a ‘normal, fun activity’.”

“Living in a world that is often saturated with ‘inappropriate’ expressions or degradations of sexuality, it can be tough for students,” he continued, explaining that the Catholic Student Center helps support them.

“The students, especially the Catholic students, are very supportive of each other. They’re really challenging each other to live the Church’s teachings and to share those teachings with others.”

“People need a community where they know they’re not alone,” Fr. Ingels told CNA. “We’re very blessed to have over 1,000 students weekly who are active in our program.”

The web site of the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland, College Park is at www.catholicterps.org

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S. Philippines Christians fear abductions, mortar attacks by Muslim radicals

Manila, Philippines, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Months after the abduction of three Red Cross workers at the hands of Muslim militants, Christians in the apostolic vicariate of Jolo in the southern Philippines are still living in fear because of the danger posed by mortar attacks, abductions and other violent acts, a local bishop says.

In the past month no fewer than three mortar bombs were fired in Jolo, one of which killed several people. Another damaged the roof of the gymnasium of the Marist-run Notre Dame Boys School, while a third exploded near the base of the Marines Third Brigade not far from the local bishop’s residence, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports. There continue to be repeated abductions of Christians as well.

On January 15, 2009 Abu Sayyaf militants seized two European and one Filipino Red Cross workers while they were visiting a water sanitation project at a jail. The kidnappers had threatened to behead one of their hostages by March 30, but the threat has apparently not been carried out.

Abductions have been repeatedly perpetrated in order to demand ransom money.

Commenting on the abductions, Regina Lynch, Head of Projects at ACN, said it was “regrettable” that media rarely reported the abduction of native Filipinos.

“We at ACN call on people around the world not to forget the oppressed Christians in Jolo!” she exhorted.

On January 15, 2008 on the Jolo region’s Island of Tabawan, Filipino priest Fr. Reynado Jesus Roda was shot dead by armed Muslims, becoming the third Catholic priest to have been murdered in the region in the last 11 years.

Bishop Angelito Lampon, apostolic vicar of Jolo, spoke about the situation with ACN.

He said that although it was “relatively peaceful” because Marine units are now stationed in the area, priests who in the past declined the protection of a security escort have now been obliged to accept an escort “by force of circumstances because they have no other choice.”

Bishop Lampon emphasized that not one Muslim has been abducted.

Church activities have been curtailed because people now have to return home before darkness falls for fear of danger. This has affected pastoral and liturgical gatherings, weddings and funerals, and everyday secular events, ACN reports.

The dangers have focused the faith of the region’s Christians, the bishop told ACN:

“We have been obliged to take our Faith seriously. Whatever may happen, God is there for us. Our Faith is no longer only a matter of Sunday churchgoing, nor is it limited to praying novenas, asking for the things we need. Instead it is a daily encounter with God in the events of our everyday life.”

He reported that peacemaking activities have been organized, including joint actions by Christians and Muslims.

Though the Church and local authorities have “excellent” relations, there is strong resistance from “small groups of Islamic fundamentalists.”

According to ACN, Christian-Muslim dialogue is made difficult because every mosque is independent. Despite the existence of organizations like the Uluma League for the Philippines, the Muslims have no overall authorized representatives like the Catholic hierarchy.

Bishop Lampon said a rapid resolution of the conflict is needed, as is lasting change that addresses the underlying social causes of the hostilities: the region’s structural relationships, its cultural and religious values, and its intellectual attitudes.

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Constitutionality of Mt. Soledad veterans’ memorial cross to be defended in court

San Diego, Calif., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Arguing that removing the memorial would cause “real, irreparable harm” to war heroes and their families, the Thomas More Law Center has filed a brief opposing a legal challenge to the constitutionality of California’s historic Mt. Soledad cross which honors veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Over 2,100 plaques honoring individuals or groups of veterans are displayed near the Mt. Soledad cross, which is the centerpiece of the veterans’ memorial. Some of the plaques display Stars of David in honor of Jewish veterans. A large American flag flies at the memorial’s base.

In 2004 the cross was scheduled to be taken down following an agreement between the City of San Diego and an atheist who sought to remove the memorial. The Law Center then began its legal defense of the cross, prevailing in state and federal courts. It successfully petitioned the federal government to transfer the property from city to federal property, rendering powerless the district court’s order to remove the cross.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) then filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the cross and the propriety of the property transfer. That suit was dismissed by a federal district court judge in July 2008.

The ACLU is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where federal government lawyers will defend the constitutionality of the cross.

According to a press release from the Law Center, it has filed an amicus curiae brief in the memorial’s defense.

Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney and former Marine officer who authored the brief, said the amicus brief demonstrates that tearing down the cross will cause “real, irreparable harm to our war heroes and their grieving families, as compared with the contrived ‘harm’ the ACLU will ‘feel’ because the memorial cross remains.” 

“Indeed, it is the ACLU in this case that is creating the sort of religiously-based divisiveness that our Constitution was designed to prohibit,” he remarked.

The brief was filed on behalf of former Navy pilot and prisoner of war Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton (Ret.) and the families of Marine Majors Michael D. Martino and Gerald Bloomfield, III, who were both killed in Iraq in November 2005 when their attack helicopter was shot down.

All three have had plaques in their honor placed under the Mt. Soledad cross.

Rear Admiral Denton, a former U.S. Senator from Alabama, came to national prominence during a television interview arranged by his North Vietnamese captors in 1966. Denton affirmed his support for the United States while blinking his eyes in Morse Code, repeatedly spelling out the message “TORTURE.”

Denton was himself tortured and was the first American military captive to be subjected to four years of solitary confinement, the Law Center reports. He was released from captivity in 1973.

In May 2006, Major Martino and Major Bloomfield’s unit, having recently returned from Iraq, sponsored a plaque dedication ceremony at the memorial to commemorate the fallen Marines’ service. According to the Law Center, more than 300 Marines stood in line for over three hours to meet the Marines’ families and to pay respect to their fallen comrades.

The Law Center argued that the cross conveys “an unmistakably American message of patriotism and self-sacrifice” and does not “establish” Christianity as a national religion.

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Virginia Gov. Kaine restricts funding for fetal and embryonic stem cell research

Richmond, Va., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Monday signed a bill banning the use of some state funds for in-state research on human embryonic stem cells and cells or tissue derived from induced abortions.

The bill was part of legislation intended to promote “science and technology-based” research and development in Virginia, CNN’s Political Ticker reports. Virginia’s General Assembly inserted language that would prevent a state fund from financially supporting organizations or businesses that undertake “research in Virginia on human cells or tissue derived from induced abortions or from stem cells obtained from human embryos.”

Gov. Kaine will assume a full-time role as Democratic National Committee chairman after he leaves office in January. He was named chairman at the behest of President Barack Obama, who in March lifted President George W. Bush’s restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

The platform of the Democratic Party advocates funding embryonic stem cell research. Describing it as “research that could save lives,” the platform argues the embryonic cells would otherwise be “discarded” and “lost forever.”

According to CNN, Lynda Tran, the governor's communications director, said Gov. Kaine’s decision is “in keeping with his faith and his personal beliefs.”

“The governor is opposed to the use of state funds to fund embryonic stem cell research, but he generally agrees with the national platform broadly, that there are scientific values to stem cell research,” she said. “In Virginia, where there has been strong opposition to embryonic research, he has chosen to focus on other forms of research like adult and placental stem cell research.”

Gov. Kaine, a Catholic, worked as a Jesuit volunteer in Honduras but supports permissive abortion laws.

On Monday the governor also signed legislation that would permit “Choose Life” license plates in Virginia, a move which angered state and national abortion advocates.

The three Democrats who hope to succeed Kaine as Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds, all support using state money for embryonic research.

A spokesman for Republican candidate for Virginia governor Bob McDonnell said the candidate opposes state funding for embryonic research but supports other forms of stem cell research.

"Adult stem cell research avoids the ethical questions associated with taxpayer funded embryonic stem cell research," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said, according to CNN. "Bob McDonnell believes we should focus tax dollars on research methods where there is common ground.”

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Holy Father expresses gratitude for annual Peter’s Pence donation

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict received members of the Circle of St. Peter in an annual meeting in which they present him with "Peter's Pence," the proceeds of collections made each year in the parishes and institutes of the Diocese of Rome.  The Holy Father thanked them and spoke of the need for hope during the current economic crisis.

 

"I thank you," the Pope told them, "because in some way, with this initiative of human and evangelical solidarity, you give concrete expression to the concern of Peter's Successor for those in conditions of particular need."

 

"We know that the authenticity of our faithfulness to the Gospel may also be measured in terms of the real attention and concern we strive to show towards others, especially the weakest and the marginalized," he added. "Thus charitable service, which can take many forms, becomes a privileged method of evangelization, in the light of Jesus' own teaching."

 

The Pontiff concluded: "From the Cross spring the joy and peace of heart which make us witnesses of hope, of which there is such need in these times of widespread economic crisis."

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Pope approves heroic virtues for ten on path to canonization, including the Brazilian ‘Mother Teresa’

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - In a meeting with Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father approved miracles and heroic virtue for several Servants of God from all walks of life, on their path to sainthood.

In order for Servants of God to move onto beatification, the next "step" toward sainthood, the congregation must recognize their heroic virtue and certify that one posthumous miracle took place through the Servant of God’s intercession.

Canonization, the next "step" requires an additional miracle unless waived by the Pope.

The list, which is comprised of a bishop, a diocesan priest, several religious and a layman, also includes Servant of God Dulce Lopes Pontes, known in Brazil as the "good angel," who died in 1992.

Only one woman, Venerable Servant of God Maria Pierina de Micheli, Italian sister of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception of Buenos Aires (1890-1945) was recognized with a miracle, while the following ten Servants of God were acknowledged with having heroic virtue:

- Servant of God Franz Joseph Rudigier, Austrian Bishop of Linz (1811-1884).

- Servant of God Johannes Evangelist Wagner, German diocesan priest (1807-1886).

- Servant of God Innocenzo da Caltagirone Marcinno (ne Giuseppe), Italian Minister General of the Order of the Capuchin Friars Minor (1589-1655).

- Servant of God Teresa de la Cruz Candamo Alvarez Calderon, Peruvian foundress of the Congregation of Canonesses of the Cross (1875-1953).

- Servant of God Maria Ines-Teresa del Santisimo Sacramento Arias Espinosa (nee Manuela de Jesus), Mexican foundress of the Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the Missionaries of Christ for the Universal Church (1904-1981).

- Servant of God Marie de la Ferre, French co-foundress of the Daughters of St. Joseph of La Fleche (now the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph) (1589/1590-1652).

- Servant of God Teresita del Nino Jesus Perez de Iriarte Casado (nee Felisa), Spanish professed religious of the Dominican Nuns (1904-1954).

- Servant of God Dulce Lopes Pontes (nee Maria Rita), Brazilian sister of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (1914-1992).

- Servant of God Giacomo Gaglione, Italian lay man (1896-1962).

- Servant of God Benoite Rencurel, French lay woman of the Third Order of St. Dominic (1647-1718).

 

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Benedict XVI speaks of importance of ‘an emptying of self’ in letter to Buddhists

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Touching on the importance of  emptying ourselves in order to listen to God and to respect our brothers and sisters, the Holy Father addressed Buddhists in his annual message for the Buddhist Feast of Vesakh.

 

Vesakh, the main Buddhist celebration, marks three fundamental moments in the life of Gautama Buddha. It is held during the full moon of the month of May because, according to tradition, the Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment, and passed away during this period.

 

This year's message - published in English, French, and Italian - is entitled "Witnessing to a Spirit of Poverty: Christians and Buddhists in Dialogue." In the message, Benedict XVI recalls that he recently affirmed that there is a "chosen" poverty, "which allows one to tread in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. ... We understand this poverty to mean above all an emptying of self, ... creat[ing] in us a willingness to listen to God and to our brothers and sisters, being open to them, and respecting them as individuals."

 

The Pope also refers to "a poverty, a deprivation, which God does not desire and which should be fought; a poverty that prevents people and families from living as befits their dignity; a poverty that offends justice and equality and that, as such, threatens peaceful co-existence."

 

The message closes by thanking Buddhists for their "inspiring witness of non-attachment and contentment. Monks, nuns, and many lay devotees among you embrace a poverty 'to be chosen' that spiritually nourishes the human heart, substantially enriching life with a deeper insight into the meaning of existence, and sustaining commitment to promoting the goodwill of the whole human community."

 

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Archbishop Vincent Nichols to become next Archbishop of Westminster

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham to become the 11th Archbishop of Westminster. The "prayerful" and "consultative" archbishop will take over an archdiocese that is considered the head of the Catholic Church in England.

Nichols, who is 63 years old, was once considered a "liberal" by some, according to the Telegraph, but has shown to be a powerful force in the British Catholic Church for defending Church teaching and is not afraid to challenge the media.

In a press conference today after the announcement was made, the archbishop said that when he was told he was to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the previous Archbishop of Westminster, he "just swallowed hard and said ‘yes’" saying that his life is about a "desire to play a part in the mission of the Church, under the obedience of the Church."

He also said that there was "a lot sadness" in leaving his post as Archbishop of Birmingham, calling the priests there "very splendid" and the Archdiocese "the home of the revival of the re-establishment of the Catholic Church in [England] after the restoration of the hierarchy" in the 1850s.

The Telegraph also reports that recently, Nichols fought to protect Catholic schools from being forced to institute a "quota" on the number of non-Catholics admitted. He also successfully pressured the BBC to pull a "biased and hostile" program called Popetown.

When the British government began discussing legislation to force Catholic adoption agencies to allow gay couples to adopt, he also rallied Catholics. The Church eventually lost the battle and adoption agencies are currently in a state of secularization.

The calling to become a priest was recognized by Nichols as a teenager, explains the Telegraph and after completing studies at the English College in Rome, Manchester University and Loyola University, Chicago was ordained a priest in 1969.

Nichols became an auxiliary bishop at the age of 46, the youngest British Bishop at the time. Pope John Paul II then moved Nichols to the Archdiocese of Birmingham where he was appointed archbishop.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor submitted his resignation, a mandatory requirement at the age of 75, to Pope Benedict XVI last month. Nichols thanked the Cardinal for his "outstanding leadership" to the Church during this "difficult time." Murphy-O’Connor had been the Archbishop of Westminster since 2000.

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Pope Benedict expresses ‘great sadness’ over death of Cardinal Umberto Betti

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter of condolence to Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo O.F.M., minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, after the death of Cardinal Umberto Betti O.F.M., former rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Cardinal Betti died on April 1 at the age of 87.

 

According to Catholic Hierarchy, Betti was born on March 7, 1922 in Italy and professed his first vows to the Order of Friars Minor at the age of 16, later becoming a priest at 24. After 61 years of being a priest, Benedict XVI elevated him to cardinal at the age of 85.

 

In Benedict XVI’s letter he expresses “great sadness” upon learning about the death of Betti. He writes that his soul is “filled with gratitude to the Lord” at the ministry that the cardinal was able to carry out during his life.

 

Calling Betti an “illustrious theologian” and an “expert of Vatican Council II,” Benedict XVI thanks God for Betti’s work as a consultor of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the Secretariat of State, and the rector of the Pontifical Lateran University.

 

With the cardinal’s passing, there are now 186 members of the College of Cardinals, including 115 who are eligible to vote in a papal election. This year, five additional cardinals will reach their 80th birthdays, which will further reduce the number of eligible participants to 110. Some Vatican insiders believe this may mean that Benedict XVI will identify additional Cardinals before the year is up.

 

The full message can be read below:

 

"It was with great sadness that I learned the news of the death of Cardinal Umberto Betti and, spiritually sharing in the mourning that has struck the Order of Friars Minor, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences. My soul filled with gratitude to the Lord, I recall the ministry that the lamented Cardinal carried out with such zeal, particularly as illustrious theologian, expert of Vatican Council II, esteemed consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Secretariat of State, and rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. Raising fervent prayers for such a worthy servant of the Gospel and invoking divine goodness to grant eternal peace to his soul, I send my special apostolic blessing to comfort his relatives, confreres, and all those mourning his passing."

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Holy Father reflects on the hope that John Paul II shared with the world

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday at the Vatican Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI presided over a Mass in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the death of John Paul II. During his homily, the Pontiff recalled the hope that his predecessor communicated to society.

Turning to the young people early in his homily, the Holy Father noted that their "presence brings to mind the enthusiasm John Paul II was able to infuse in the new generations. His memory is a stimulus for us all, as we gather in this basilica where he often celebrated the Eucharist, to allow ourselves to be illuminated and summoned by the Word of God."

Moving on to reflect on the Gospel readings, Pope Benedict highlighted the difficulties involved in being witnesses of Christ. "Our thoughts", he said, "go to the beloved Servant of God Karol Wojtyla - John Paul II, who from his youth showed himself to be a bold and intrepid defender of Christ. For His sake, he did not hesitate to spend all his energies in order to carry His light everywhere. He accepted no compromise when it came to proclaiming and defending His Truth. He never tired of spreading His love. From the beginning of his pontificate, right up to April 2, 2005, he was not afraid to proclaim, always and to everyone, that only Jesus is the true Liberator of man."

Benedict XVI also spoke about the fruitfulness of John Paul II's pontificate. "We could say ... that he generated many sons and daughters in the faith," he commented, telling the young people present that they "ideally represent the ranks of young men and women who have participated in the twenty-three World Youth Days in various parts of the world. How many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, how many young families resolved to live the evangelical ideal and to tend towards sanctity are linked to the testimony and preaching of my venerated predecessor!" the Pope exclaimed. "How many young men and women have converted to, or maintained, the Christian path, thanks to his prayers, his encouragement and the support of his example!"

"John Paul II was able to communicate a powerful message of hope, founded on faith in Jesus Christ Who is 'is the same yesterday, and today, and forever'. ... As an affectionate father and a careful teacher, he indicated sure and sound points of reference indispensable for everyone, especially for the young. And in his final hours and his death this new generation wished to show they had understood his teaching, gathering silently in prayer in St. Peter's Square and many other places around the world. Those young people were aware that his demise was a loss: 'their' Pope was dying, whom they considered as 'their father' in the faith."

"We cannot live without hope", insisted the Holy Father, "but we must be careful. In times such as these, given the cultural and social context in which we live, there is a risk of reducing Christian hope to an ideology, to group slogans, to exterior cladding. Nothing could be more opposite to Jesus' message! He does not want His disciples 'to recite' a role, even a role of hope. He wants them 'to be' hope, and they can be so only if they remain united to Him."

"If the words of Christ remain within us, then we will be able to propagate the flame of love that He lit upon the earth; we will be able to hold high the torch of faith and hope," said the Pope as he concluded his homily. "This is the flame that Pope John Paul II left as his legacy. He gave it to me as his successor, and this evening I ideally consign it, once again, to you young people of Rome, that you may continue to be sentinels of the morning, watchful and joyful at this dawn of the third millennium."

 

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Vatican responds to Belgium’s ‘protest’ against Pope over condoms in Africa

Vatican City, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - In response to Belgium’s diplomatic protest against Pope Benedict’s comments that condoms could potentially "increase the problem" of AIDS being spread in Africa, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See newsroom questioned whether the lawmakers had considered the Popes words and scientific research, or whether they received their information "through the non-objective, imbalanced filter of the echoes in the western media."

According to Reuters, the Belgium House of Deputies called the Pope’s comments "unacceptable" and instructed their government to "react strongly against any state or organization that in the future brings into doubt the benefit of using condoms to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus."

The measure approved with a strong majority, 95-18, and asks the government to "condemn the Pope’s unacceptable position statement and to lodge a formal protest at the Holy See." Premier Herman Van Rompuy said he will support the motion saying, "it is not the Pope’s job to shed doubts on public health policies which are unanimously supported and save lives ever day."

Father Lombardi, expressed "amazement" at the resolution, reported the Italian news service, SIR.

He questioned how a democratic country could limit the "freedom of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church to express their own positions" which are "clearly relevant to the view of the human person."

As Belgium reacted to the Pope’s comments, Lombardi pointed to "the great tradition" of the Catholic Church in "education and health-care, especially in the poorer countries" that needs no "evidence or comments."

Lombardi also questioned whether Belgium lawmakers had considered the "Pope’s arguments" and scientific research, or whether they received their information "through the non-objective, imbalanced filter of the echoes in the western media."

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Gay 'marriage' supporters focusing on new states to overturn traditional marriage laws

Hartford, Conn., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday, Love Makes a Family, a gay rights activist group, declared victory in the state of Connecticut and discussed plans to follow gay "marriage" advocate Tim Gill’s strategic plan by re-deploying their lobbying and financial resources to focus on overturning traditional marriage laws in other states and on the national level.

In a letter to the organization’s members, Ann Stanback, Executive Director of Connecticut’s Love Makes a Family, said her group will "cease operations" in the state "on December 31, 2009" and will begin work on the national level to repeal the 1996 Federal Definition of Marriage Act.

Connecticut’s Supreme Court ruled in October of last year that gay "marriage" was Constitutional, making Connecticut one of three states where gay marriage has been declared legal by state Supreme Courts: Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa.

Stanback told her supporters that she has enjoyed the last eight years working to win acceptance of gay marriage, feels confident that gay marriage is "secure for all time," and now wants to "spend time with [her] very patient wife, Charlotte." 

Detailing the group’s next steps, Stanback says priorities include: to "smoothly enact marriage equality," secure support of Connecticut Congressmen to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, lobby for more protection of the "transgender community," elect a "pro-equality" legislature that is friendly to the gay community, and to share their "successful strategies" with other states.

The Love Makes a Family website lists successes over the last eight years including: 20,000 active gay marriage supporters, shifting public option in support of gay marriage to 53%, incrementally introducing the public to gay marriage through an adoption law in 2000, "a handful of rights to same-sex couples" in 2002, civil unions in 2005, and finally "marriage equality victory in 2008."

While groups like Love Makes a Family are claiming success and "ceasing operations," multi-millionaire Tim Gill, who has reportedly donated over $150 million to gay marriage causes, is still behind the scenes directing the U.S. gay marriage strategy.

Last August, CNA reported the details of Gill's strategy at the Democratic National Convention. He laid out a plan and declared, "The only way that bigots will learn, is if we take their power away from them." His strategy encourages donors to focus on winning strategic local and state level legislative offices, and promoted sharing ideas and donating money across state lines on key winnable races.

In April of 2007, Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli told Time Magazine "Gill [and his people are] incredibly strategic. They simply don't waste money. They put their funding where they can take control of legislatures." Ciruli adds, "People were unaware of what was going on for quite awhile, but now I think everybody knows that they have really changed the direction of [Colorado]. I'm not sure that everyone really understands how potent [Gill] is, but he now has to be the number one gay rights advocate in the country in terms of funding and strategy. They're taking significant contributions and putting them brilliantly in legislative environments where a few seats changing will change the entire control of a state."

Now that gay "marriage" is "secure" in Connecticut, the big money from donors like Gill is likely drying up and being reallocated along with out resources to new winnable races in other states.

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Atheist group sells certificates of debaptism

London, England, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - The National Secular Society in London, England, is offering a debaptism certificate that allows atheists to "liberate yourself from the Original Mumbo-Jumbo that liberated you from the Original Sin you never had!"

The National Secular Society (NSS), an atheist humanist organization established in 1866, reports on their website that the "Certificate of Debaptism" has been downloaded over 100,000 times and is available to buy online. The certificate, which is printed on "quality parchment paper," demonstrates a trend, according to NSS President Terry Sanderson. "The concept of de-baptism indicates that people are not just indifferent to religion-which has been the traditional British approach-but are actually becoming hostile to it."

The certificate declares:


I ________ having been subjected to the Rite of Christian Baptism in infancy (before reaching an age of consent), hereby publicly revoke any implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out. In the name of human reason, I reject all its Creeds and all other such superstition in particular, the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed by Baptism of alleged ORIGINAL SIN, and the evil power of supposed demons. I wish to be excluded henceforth from enhanced claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics used, for example, for the purpose of securing legislative privilege.

The NSS site explains that the proceeds from the certificate, which sells for roughly $4.50, goes to support campaign activities including "secularization of Britain’s education system" the elimination of "abstinence campaigns," and their primary long term goal of "disestablishment of the Church of England."

According to Tearfund, the Church of England has been in a state of crises for many years. England, which has over 60 million citizens, counts 25 million as part of their official Church, but recent statistics have shown that only slightly more than 1.1 million attend religious services on a regular basis.

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Catholic Senators vote against 'Conscience Law’

Washington D.C., Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday, a majority of Catholic Senators rejected a conscience protection law proposed by Senator Tom Colburn that would protect health care workers who object to abortions from participating in the procedure.

Conscience protection has become a topic of debate after President Obama announced that he was reviewing the law and could possible eliminate it. Colburn’s amendment states, "To protect the freedom of conscience for patients and the right of health care providers to serve patients without violating their moral and religious convictions."

The amendment was voted down by a margin of 41-56, in which a majority of Catholic Senators voted against the amendment 9-16. The failure to pass this legislation now leaves the door open for the Obama Administration to rescind the law by executive order and force health workers to compromise their moral convictions.

Last month, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed deep concern that removing the conscience rule would be "the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism."

"No government should come between an individual person and God—that's what America is supposed to be about," he commented. "This is the true common ground for us as Americans."

Rockville Center Bishop William F. Murphy, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), also commented on the possibility of conscience laws being revoked saying,"[it] raises a real issue, because the statutes are intended to protect human rights – rights of conscience and rights of freedom of religion," Bishop Murphy said. "So why should everyone be concerned about this? Because if one person's rights can be compromised, everybody's rights can be compromised."

Murphy called on all Catholics to respond together to protect these basic "human rights," "The lay men and women of our churches, of our parishes and dioceses across the country have to be the voices of the Catholic Church today. Their voice is stronger than ours in many instances because they are the constituents, because they vote and because the politicians know they need the votes to be re-elected."

Yet, 16 Catholic Senators still voted against the protection of these "human rights" including: Begich (D-AK), Dodd (D-CT), Kaufman (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Harkin (D-IA), Landrieu (D- LA), Collins (R-ME), Mikulski (D-MD), Kerry (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Gillibrand (D-NY), Reed (D-RI), Leahy (D-VT), Cantwell (D-WA), Murray (D-WA).

The nine Catholic Senators that voted for the amendment were; Murkowski (R-AK), Martinez (R-FL), Risch (R-ID), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Vitter (R-LA), Johanns(R-NE), Voinovich (R-OH), and Casey (D-PA).

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Iowa court’s redefinition of marriage will ‘grievously harm’ families, bishops say

Des Moines, Iowa, Apr 3, 2009 (CNA) -

On Friday morning the Iowa Supreme Court required same-sex "marriages" to be allowed in the state, claiming there was no "constitutionally adequate" justification not to do so. The unanimous decision overturned Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The state’s Catholic bishops in a Friday statement "strongly disagreed" with the decision, calling it "unwarranted social engineering" which "attacks" the good of marriage and the good of children while weakening the relationship between marriage and parenting.

"This decision rejects the wisdom of thousands of years of human history. It implements a novel understanding of marriage, which will grievously harm families and children," they wrote, saying that the rights of marriage "are not something that the state creates or may redefine."

The case before the Iowa Supreme Court, Varnum v. Brien, involved same-sex couples who sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien in 2005 after his office denied them marriage licenses.

Supreme Court Justice Mark Cady, writing in the court’s decision, said the non-recognition of same-sex "marriage" was unconstitutional "because the county has been unable to identify a constitutionally adequate justification for excluding plaintiffs from the institution of civil marriage."

"A new distinction based on sexual orientation would be equally suspect and difficult to square with the fundamental principles of equal protection embodied in our constitution," he argued.

The ruling claimed a "religious undercurrent" was "propelling the same-sex marriage debate" and said judges must remain outside the dispute.

"Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring that government avoids them," the court’s decision argued.

Justice Cady also invoked the court’s first legal decision, an 1839 case which struck down slavery laws.

Iowa’s Democratic Gov. Chet Culver commented on the decision in an e-mail to reporters, saying: "The decision released this morning by Supreme Court addresses a complicated and emotional issue, one on which Iowans have strong views and opinions on both sides. The next responsible step is to thoroughly review this decision, which I am doing with my legal counsel and the attorney general, before reacting to what it means for Iowa."

Camilla Taylor of the homosexual advocacy group Lambda Legal said the decision fulfills the Iowa constitution’s "promise of equality," the Des Moines Register reports.

Connie Ryan Terrell, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, argued that the ruling shows Iowa "celebrates fairness and equality for all Iowans."

Maggie Gallagher, president of the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, criticized the decision, saying "once again, the most undemocratic branch of government is being used to advance an agenda the majority of Americans reject."

A February 2008 Iowa Poll showed that 62 percent of Iowans believed marriage should be only between one man and one woman, with only 32 percent saying it should not. According to the Des Moines Register, the poll showed majority support for civil unions.

"Marriage means a husband and wife. That’s not discrimination, that’s common sense," Gallagher continued in a press release. "Even in states like Vermont, where they are pushing this issue through legislatures, gay marriage advocates are totally unwilling to let the people decide these issues directly."

Doug Napier, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund in Arizona, said Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act was "settled and overwhelmingly supported."

"There was simply no legitimate reason for the court to redefine marriage," he continued.

Speaking in a Friday statement, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality and a board member of Protect Marriage Illinois, characterized the decision as "judicial tyranny."

"Homosexual 'marriage' is wrong because homosexual behavior itself is wrong and destructive -- as proved by its role in the early deaths of countless 'gay' men," he argued, referencing Founding Father Noah Webster’s definition of the behavior as a "crime against nature."

LaBarbera further argued that "secular, public policy arguments" against same-sex "marriage" proposals ignored the evils of homosexual behavior.

The restoration of the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman will require the legislature to pass a constitutional amendment. The Des Moines Register says the amendment must be approved in consecutive legislative sessions and also in a public vote, meaning the reversal of the court’s decision might not take place until 2012.

The process could begin if lawmakers take up the issue in the next few weeks, but leaders said they had no plans to do so.

CNA spoke with Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) Executive Director Thomas Chapman, who said the ICC will continue to advocate a constitutional amendment which would "reserve marriage to being between one man and one woman."

He said the effort has a chance at succeeding, adding "a lot will depend on the reaction of the Iowa people."

"Some legislative leadership hasn’t wanted to take up the issue at all. We do have an uphill climb, but it’s doable if we can get enough people involved."

Responding to the court’s argument, Chapman said it was telling that the court argued that equal protection, the basis of their decision is "defined by the standards of each generation."

"That kind of tells you where they were coming from," he told CNA.

Addressing the court’s characterization of the marriage controversy as a "religious debate," Chapman said Catholics do believe what they believe in terms of religious dogma, but also believe marriage between man and a woman is "a good policy decision."

It is important that a man and a woman "bring something unique to marriage."

"Now the law is teaching that it’s not really critical that one should have a mom and a dad in the home," he remarked.

Asked to explain how such a decision could have been reached in Iowa, Chapman explained that the state has a "very strong" two party system where Republicans are typically very conservative and Democrats are typically very liberal.

However, considering who appointed the judges, their unanimity was "surprising" he said, even if the result was not.

"I think they did it in good conscience in terms of their legal thought, it’s just that we’re not in the same place in terms of what our principles are," Chapman told CNA.

"People can live how they want, but a small group of people shouldn’t be allowed to redefine marriage for everybody."

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