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Archive of April 8, 2009

Entering the holiest time in the Church

Omaha, Neb., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - As Christians prepare to celebrate Christ's resurrection at Easter, they must first remember his suffering and death, said Father Francis Nigli, pastor at St. Patrick Church in O'Neill, Nebraska.  Several liturgies during Holy Week, considered the most important week in the church's liturgical year, provide the opportunity to do so, he said.

 

Holy Week, the last week of Lent, includes the religious holidays of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

 

Father Nigli said those three days leading up to Easter are the "greatest days" in the church. Referred to as the Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are three separate days celebrated as one feast, he said.

 

Holy Thursday Mass recalls Christ's Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. It also includes the washing of the feet ceremony.

 

On Good Friday, there is no Mass anywhere in the world, and churches are bare. The Stations of the Cross often are prayed that day and liturgies are held to commemorate Christ's Passion.

 

Holy Saturday is considered a day of silence and prayer. No Mass is celebrated until that evening at the Easter Vigil, which takes place after sundown. It is at that Mass that the church welcomes new Catholics.

 

Father Nigli encourages families to attend all three liturgies.

 

"People don't see the importance of the Triduum. We have such poor numbers at church," he said. "I really encourage families, especially those with younger people at home, to go experience the whole thing like a three-part movie."

 

Not just a day

 

In the Catholic Church, Easter is the most important feast day, even more so than Christmas, because it celebrates Jesus' resurrection.

 

"The greatest sign of Jesus being the Son of God is that he rose from the dead," Father Nigli said. "Everybody's born, but rising from the dead - that's the part where we are certain that Jesus Christ has power over life and death."

 

And because of its importance, Easter is more than just a day. It's a seven-week season of the church year. The 50 days begin at sundown the evening before Easter Sunday and last until Pentecost Sunday, which is considered the birthday of the church.

 

Father Nigli said the Easter season is the time for new Catholics - those who came into the church at the Easter Vigil - to experience mystagogia, which is "the unraveling or unpacking of the church's mysteries and sacraments."

 

All other Catholics, Father Nigli said, are called to celebrate at the same time a renewal of their own faith.

 

"That is why we have the baptismal water sprinkling rite ... that we are renewed in our own baptismal promises and take a new vigor in our faith," he said.

 

The colors used during the Easter season are white or gold, which are symbolic of Jesus' transfigured body when he showed his glory, Father Nigli said.

 

"We also understand that at the time of the resurrection, he had a glorified body that came through and so symbolic of that, we use white or gold to reflect the glory that God attached to the human body," he said.

 

Divine Mercy

 

In 2000, at the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter - this year April 19 - as Divine Mercy Sunday. It is dedicated to the devotion of the Divine Mercy promoted by St. Faustina, and based on the saint's entries in her diary of conversations with Jesus.

 

The church teaches that Jesus promised to give a special gift to those who go to confession with contrition and receive Holy Communion that day. Jesus said all of their sins and the punishment for those sins would be wiped away.

 

"It's like a second baptism," Father Nigli said. "The graces offered in this promise by Christ to St. Faustina give us a brand new awakening of the soul. It's like being reborn again."

 

In preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday, Catholics must practice showing mercy to others. They also can pray the Divine Mercy Novena.

 

On Divine Mercy Sunday, Catholics are encouraged to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and also venerate the image of the Divine Mercy.

 

Printed with permission from the Catholic Voice, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

 

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Scranton bishops ask Catholic higher ed to ensure fidelity in health services

Scranton, Pa., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Following a report of contraceptives being sold at a Pennsylvania Catholic university, the bishops of the Diocese of Scranton have asked the four Catholic institutions of higher learning in the diocese to provide information on their student health services to ensure that there are no practices which would violate Catholic teaching.

Bishop Joseph F. Martino and Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty requested the information in an April 1 letter to Holy Cross Father Thomas J. O’Hara, resident of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre; Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Anne Munley, president of Marywood University in Scranton; Michael A. MacDowell, president of Misericordia University in Dallas; and Jesuit Father Scott R. Pilarz, president of The University of Scranton.

According to an April 3 press release from the diocese, the bishops’ letter explains that their inquiry was prompted by a March 25 article in the student newspaper at St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. The article said that the university finds the “middle ground between Church doctrine and student healthcare.”

The article reported that the university’s director of student health services said the school’s location offers enough convenience and opportunity to encourage students to purchase condoms. Describing the students’ situation as “fortunate,” she also discussed the use of oral contraceptives.

“It’s always a fine line between staying within the values of the University, which we completely respect, and offering services to the students,” the director said. “We are fortunate that there are other medical centers in the area, and that there are health care providers other than us.”

Catholic teaching regards both premarital sex and the use of artificial contraception as sinful.

Bishops Martino and Dougherty said the position of the university indicates little respect for Catholic teaching.

Their letter to the four Catholic institutions under their jurisdiction requests documentation on the “policies, procedures, or practices” authorized by the schools, saying “it is especially important that the Diocese have assurance from you that no practice is occurring which would be in violation of Catholic teaching.”

The bishops cited Canon 810, Section 2 of Canon Law, which in they said notes “the duty and right of concerned diocesan bishops to be vigilant that the principles of Catholic doctrines are faithfully observed in Catholic institutions of higher learning.”

CNA contacted the Diocese of Scranton for further comment but did not receive a response by publication time.

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New Obama faith-based advisor described Knights of Columbus as ‘army of oppression’

Washington D.C., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Several Catholics are included among President Barack Obama’s announced appointments to his advisory council on faith-based partnerships. However, the appointees also include a homosexual activist who has described the Pope as a “discredited leader” and the Knights of Columbus as “foot soldiers” of an “army of oppression” because of their opposition to same-sex “marriage.”

Anthony R. Picarello Jr., General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was announced as an appointee on April 6. A former head counsel and executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Picarello has litigated several major religious freedom cases. He is a 1991 graduate of Harvard University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995.

Picarello joins Fr. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, who was appointed to the advisory board in February.

However, President Obama also appointed to the board Harry Knox, a leader with the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

A former licensed minister of the United Methodist Church, Knox directs the HRC’s religion and faith program.

He said in a statement on the HRC web site that he was “humbled” by the appointment.

“The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people.”

Some activists have pressed for anti-discrimination requirements to be added to federal grants for religious organizations which perform public services. The change could force some religious groups to decide between receiving government funding and preserving their religious identity.

According to CNSNews.com, Knox has described Pope Benedict XVI and certain Catholic bishops as “discredited leaders” because of their opposition to same-sex marriage. Though granting the Knights of Columbus’ “good works," Knox also called the organization’s members “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression” because of the Catholic group’s support for the successful California ballot measure Proposition 8. Proposition 8 restored the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.

Knox’s remarks, reportedly made to the Bay Area Reporter, also criticized the Pope’s comments on condoms and AIDS.

He also told CNSNews.com that he “absolutely” stands by his criticism of the Pope.

Another appointee to the advisory council, Bishop Charles Blake, is the Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, California. A member of the U.N. New World Ecumenical Movement on Gay Rights, he is also a signatory to the 2008 “Faith in Human Rights Statement,” which world religious leaders signed to mark the 60th Anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Other appointees include Dalia Mogahed, author of the book “Who Speaks for Islam,” and Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

In a December 29, 2008 essay for the New Republic, Diament recommended that President Obama include religious exceptions for policies which advance homosexual causes as a way to placate the fears of those opposed to them.

“Obama could be the first president to not only promote the expansion of gay rights, but also forge their durability by including religious protections within those very same laws. This would go a long way toward assuaging of those who view gay rights as a threat to their religious liberty.”

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Catholic seminarians assured of freedom to pray outside Detroit strip club

Detroit, Mich., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Two seminarians who were threatened with arrest for peacefully praying outside of a topless club have secured assurances from the city of Detroit that their actions are legally protected.

The two Catholic seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit have in recent weeks walked the public sidewalks in and around downtown Detroit to share the Gospel by speaking and praying with people, the American Center for Law and Justice reports.

The two would gather on the public sidewalk in front of a topless club without obstructing the sidewalk. They reportedly would pray there “in the hope of converting to Christ those who work in, and attend, the club.”

Recently, the ACLJ reports, the two were on the public sidewalk outside the club when three uniformed Detroit police officers approached them and yelled at them to leave the area. The officers claimed the seminarians’ presence and praying were disturbing the club’s owner, employees and customers.

“The officers told the men that if they did not leave, they would be arrested for disobeying police orders,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said. “The seminarians left the area out of fear of being arrested for praying on a public sidewalk.”

After the seminarians contacted the ACLJ, its Senior Council Ed White sent a letter to city officials. He demanded a “swift end” to the violation of the seminarians’ rights and asked for written assurance that the seminarians would be allowed to continue their religious work without further harassment or arrest.

The seminarians received the requested assurances from the city.

“These seminarians should be praised for their courage, for the good example they set, and for their much needed ministry in Detroit,” White said.

Sekulow added: “The fact is that we are pleased that the City of Detroit acted quickly and that our clients have resumed their ministry without further harassment.”

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Colorado contraception bill ventures into abortifacient debate

Denver, Colo., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - A “dangerously broad” proposed Colorado law written to protect contraception in response to a “personhood amendment” ballot measure is headed to the governor’s desk for approval.

Amendment 48, a ballot measure on the 2008 Colorado ballot, would have defined a human being from the moment of conception as a person. It garnered only 26.7 percent of the vote.

The pending law, Senate Bill 225, is called the Birth Control Protection Act. It defines contraceptives as “any medically acceptable drug, device or procedure used to prevent pregnancy.”

The bill also defines “emergency contraception,” excluding from its definition RU-486, mifepristone, or “any other drug or device that induces a medical abortion.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President and CEO Vicki Cowart called the bill’s approval by the state legislature a “victory” that reaffirms birth control as “basic, preventative health care.”

The Colorado Catholic Conference opposed the bill, calling it “dangerously broad and sweeping” in its definition of contraceptives. The CCC said the law could classify abortifacient drugs as contraception.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Catholic, must sign the bill if it is to become law.

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Holy Week is most important week of the year, Pope says

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square today to attend Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly General Audience and catechesis.  The Holy Father discussed Holy Week, describing the period as “the most important week of the year, offering us the chance to immerse ourselves in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Easter Mystery, the great Mystery of the faith."

The Pope explained how Jesus "did not wish to use the fact of His being God, His glorious dignity and His power, as an instrument of triumph and a sign of distance." Out of love for us, "He wished to 'empty Himself' and become our brother. For love, He shared our condition, the condition of all men and women."

The Holy Father described the Chrism Mass, which was celebrated on Tuesday, as "a prelude to the Easter Triduum which begins tomorrow." He explained that at that Mass, "priestly vows pronounced on the day of Ordination are renewed," and that it “has particular significance this year because it comes as a kind of preparation for the Year for Priests.” Pope Benedict added that he called for the year to “mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars,'” and that it will begin on June 19.

During Holy Thursday Mass, also called the “Lord's Supper,” the Church "commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the priestly ministry and the mandatum novum (new commandment) of charity which Jesus left to His disciples," the Pope said. It “is a renewed invitation to give thanks unto God for the supreme gift of the Eucharist, which must be welcomed with devotion and adored with living faith."

The Pope proceeded to discuss Good Friday, “the day of the passion and crucifixion of the Lord.” “Christ's death recalls the mass of pain and evil weighing upon humanity in every epoch: the crushing weight of our own mortality, the hatred and violence which still bloody the earth today. The Lord's passion continues in the suffering of mankind," Benedict XVI said.

"If Good Friday is a day full of sadness,” he added, “it is at the same time the best day on which to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and the courage to carry our cross with humility and trust, abandoning ourselves to God in the certainty of His support and His victory."

The Holy Father noted how “this hope is nourished in the great silence of Easter Saturday as we await the resurrection of Jesus." “The Church keeps prayerful vigil, like Mary and with Mary, sharing her feelings of pain and of trust in God,” he stated. “Rightly we are advised to spend the whole day in an atmosphere of prayer, one favorable to meditation and reconciliation. The faithful are encouraged to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance so that, thus renewed, they can participate in the Easter celebrations."

The Easter Vigil, which Pope Benedict called the “mother of all vigils,” proclaims to the faithful "once again the victory of light over darkness, of life over death.” At the Easter Vigil, said Benedict, “the Church will rejoice at the meeting with her Lord. Thus will we enter the atmosphere of Easter Day."

Pope Benedict concluded by inviting Christians "to enter into the Cenacle with the Virgin Mary, to stand with her at the foot of the cross, to watch over the dead Christ, hopefully awaiting the bright dawn of the day of resurrection."

Following his reflections on Holy Week, Benedict XVI switched from Italian to Spanish and greeted 4,300 students currently attending the UNIV international congress, being held this week in Rome under the auspices of the Prelature of Opus Dei.

"Dear friends," said the Pope, "I encourage you to respond with joy to the Lord's call in order to give full meaning to your lives: in your studies, in your relationships with your colleagues, in the family and in society. 'Many things depend,' St. Josemaria Escriva said, 'on whether you and I live our lives as God wants,' an important teaching.”

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Trisimony 13 baby exceeding expectations, says Omaha mom

Omaha, Neb., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - John Paul Hauser, a baby featured in a February article, is doing "really, really well" and developmentally is exceeding expectations, his mother said.  Baby Hauser was born on Oct. 8, 2008, with Trisomy 13, a rare chromosomal disorder that doctors consider incompatible with life.

Tami Hauser said her five-month-old son sucks his thumb, smiles and gives eye contact when spoken to. He rolls over, grabs for his toys, and hums and smiles when someone sings Silent Night, she said. His head and neck also are getting stronger.

"These seem like normal things for a five month old to do, but when doctors tell you that your baby will have absolutely no neurological functioning, you learn to rejoice at those little 'normal' things," Hauser said, noting her son is gaining weight, but struggles with a milk, soy, protein intolerance that at times gives him an upset stomach.

In the Februry article, Hauser and her husband, Tracy, asked for prayers for their son's healing through the intercession of the late Pope John Paul II. The Hausers, who have seven children, want to spread a devotion to the late Pope's beatification and canonization prayer in hopes that he will intercede for them and grant them one of the three miracles needed for his canonization.

Hauser said the response from the article was more than she expected. Many people sent cards, letters and e-mails telling of their support and requesting beatification prayer cards.

Third graders at Sacred Heart School in Norfolk made cards and told the family they pray for John Paul daily. Sixth graders at St. Bonaventure School in Columbus did a media project using the Hausers' story.

The family also received a papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI and a letter written on his behalf telling them of his prayers for their son.

And the family received dozens of phone calls, including some from strangers and some from as far away as Oklahoma and Virginia. An Omaha couple called to tell the Hausers that they named their son John Paul after reading the article.

John Paul's mother said the response to the article, which was originally printed in Omaha’s The Catholic Voice,  gave her a renewed sense of hope. John Paul's doctors and caretakers also seem to have a stronger sense of hope, she said.

"I think at first people were maybe a little afraid that I was going to have a big disappointment in store for me. People were concerned for me and wanted to give me a reality check," Hauser said. "But now I've noticed that their language has changed. They've started talking about John Paul's future."

She said the family is grateful for all the prayers and asks people to continue praying the beatification prayer with the intention of her son.

"I just want to say thank you. I'm so grateful for all the prayers and support, and I just know that's why John Paul's here," she said. "Today is a miracle, and we're going to be hopeful that tomorrow's going to be a miracle, too."

Printed with permission from the Catholic Voice, newspaper from the Archdiocese of Omaha.

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Pope plans visit to L'Aquila earthquake victims

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict XVI said today at his weekly general audience that he will visit the earthquake plagued city of L'Aquila soon and that he remains in solidarity with the victims' suffering.

After offering his reflections on the meaning of each day in Holy Week, Pope Benedict reiterated his "spiritual closeness to the beloved community of L'Aquila and its outlying villages, so severely affected by the violent earthquake of recent days, which caused numerous victims, many injured and vast material damage." The death toll as of Wednesday was at 250 people, including 16 children.

He told Italian-speaking pilgrims: "The promptness with which the authorities, security forces, volunteers and other workers are helping these our brothers and sisters shows how important solidarity is in order to overcome such difficult trials together. Once again I wish to tell those dear people that the Pope shares their suffering and concerns. Dear friends, as soon as possible I hope to come and visit you. Know that the Pope prays for everyone, imploring the Lord's mercy for the deceased, and the maternal comfort of Mary and the support of Christian hope for survivors and families."

Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L'Aquila told the Italian bishops' news service SIR that he thinks the Pope will visit the area next week.

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Oprah’s website buries Dr. Oz's ‘stem cell debate is dead’ statement

Chicago, Ill., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Yesterday, Dr. Mehment Oz appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to voice his support for adult stem cell research and to argue that “the stem cell debate is dead,” but instead of giving his statement a fair hearing, Oprah’s website buried and edited Oz’s comments.

Actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was invited on the show to  talk about his struggle with Parkinson’s and his foundation’s endorsement of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

Fox told Oprah that he believes President Obama’s decision lifting President Bush's restrictions on ESCR was a “step in the right direction” and that “we had eight years where there was no forward progress.” The United States has to make up for a lot of lost time, Fox added.

He also empathized with ethical concerns over ESCR, but said, “I just have faith in our scientists and the research community that they’ll do this ethically and to good purpose.”

After a commercial break, Oprah introduced Dr. Oz, who is the vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University, to explain how stem cells could be used to treat or cure the effects of many diseases.

To demonstrate how stem cells could be used, Oz brought out a human brain. Both Oprah and Fox laughed and joked with Oz as he discussed how stem cells would work in the brain. But Dr. Oz became more serious as he spoke about the future of embryonic stem cell research.

“Now, I’m going to say something that’s going to be a bit provocative. I think, Oprah, the stem cell debate is dead, and I’ll tell you why,” said Oz.

“The problem with embryonic stem cells is that embryonic stem cells come from embryos, like all of us were made from embryos. And those cells can become any cell in the body. But it’s very hard to control them, and so they can become cancer.”

Oprah and Fox then became visibly uncomfortable, shifting around in their chairs, as Oz explained that, contrary to Fox’s earlier testimony, incredible medical advances are being made using adult stem cells and not embryonic stem cells. He claimed that, “in the last year, we’ve made a 10 year advancement.”

Oprah responded in disbelief by saying, “In the last year we’ve advanced 10 years?” Oz explained, “we went places we never thought we would go.”

He then boldly stated that within “single digit years” the medical community could find cures for people with “Parkinson’s disease, but also diabetics and heart attack victims” by using adult stem cells.

Oprah’s website summarized Oz’s argument for adult stem cells with two short paragraphs, hidden 11 pages deep in a 13 page summary of the show:

“Thanks to recent scientific discoveries, Dr. Oz says stem cells aren’t the only solution. ‘We went to a place we never thought we would go. I can take a little bit of your skin, take those cells and get them to go back in time so they’re like they were when you were first made.’”

“Dr. Oz says these skin cells, which contain your genes and are less prone to cancer, will be the ones that are ultimately used to cure Parkinson’s. ‘I think we’re single digit years away from making a big impact in the lives of [people with] Parkinson’s disease, but also diabetics and heart attack victims,’” the website summarized.

Oprah.com not only avoided quoting Oz as saying “the stem cell debate is dead,” but carefully avoided the words “stem cell” and “embryonic’ when quoting or summarizing his remarks.

Oz did in fact say stem cells were the solution, but instead of backing ESCR, he advocated adult stem cells as the future of medical breakthroughs.

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CNA offering resources for the celebrating Easter

Denver, Colo., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - To help our readers celebrate Easter this year, CNA is providing a full list of resources focused on the Easter Triduum.

Among the resources provided are: an introduction to Holy Week, a liturgical calendar, papal documents, Holy Week and Easter prayers, an in-depth examination of the Easter readings, and reflections from St. John Chrysostom, Pope Benedict and John Paul II.

The Easter section can be accessed by clicking here or visiting: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/holyweek.php

Have a blessed Easter Triduum!

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Cardinal Castrillon denies he has been asked to step down

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to reports in the media, the president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, said that he has not received any letter from Pope Benedict XVI asking him to step down from the post.

“This is news to me,” he said. “As far as I know, at least, Pope Benedict XVI has not removed me…Maybe the letter just hasn’t arrived yet, but the Holy Father has absolutely not asked me to step down,” he told RCN Radio.

“That’s the news I have received up to now from Colombia, although anything is possible,” the cardinal said.

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Cardinal Egan released from hospital

New York City, N.Y., Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Edward Egan, the outgoing Archbishop of New York City, was released from St. Vincent’s Hospital on Tuesday afternoon. Doctors felt his stomach pains had eased sufficiently to return home to rest and recover.

According to a Tuesday press release from the Archdiocese of New York, no decision has been reached about the cardinal’s participation in Holy Week Services. His participation will depend on how he is feeling.

Cardinal Egan’s stomach pains delayed an operation to install a pacemaker. The new date for the surgery has not yet been set.

The cardinal will retire as Archbishop on April 15, 2009 when Archbishop Timothy Dolan is installed as the new Archbishop of New York. The cardinal has led the Archdiocese since June 2000.

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Top ranking Hispanic bishop criticizes Notre Dame, supports local bishop

San Antonio, Texas, Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - The highest ranking Hispanic bishop in the U.S., Archbisop Jose H. Gomez, has released a letter saying Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama is in “direct opposition” to the U.S. Bishops. The Archbishop of San Antonio’s letter, addressed to Fort Wayne- South Bend Bishop John M. D’Arcy, expresses solidarity with him and states that the Catholic Church must not send an “ambiguous message to our leaders or our people.”

In his letter, also signed by his Auxiliary Bishop, Most Reverend Oscar Cantu, Archbishop Gomez writes to Bishop  D’Arcy, saying that “we are saddened by the circumstances that made you decide not to attend this year’s commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame, and are writing in total support of your action and its motives.”

“The unfortunate message sent to the nation by the university’s invitation to President Barack Obama to speak at their graduation ceremony is compounded by their decision to provide him an honorary law degree,” the bishops also note.

“We understand and agree with the need to hold the office of President of the United States in high regard and with due respect. However, this action is in direct opposition to the statement published by the U.S. Bishops, ‘Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium.’”

Archbishop Gomez recalls that the USCCB document clearly states the responsibility Catholic institutions have to “…not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

“President Obama,” the letter continues, “has made it clear that his policies on abortion and the general protection of innocent life are in dramatic opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. At this critical time we cannot afford to send an ambiguous message to our leaders or our people.”

“We’re sorry that the Administration of the University did not inform you in advance of their intention to invite President Obama. It is our firm conviction that Catholic Universities must work in unity with the local Bishop for the good of the people of God and the Universal Church. We’re sure you recall the words of the Holy Father as he addressed American Catholic educators, that Catholic identity ‘is a question of conviction.’”

The letter from the Archbishop of San Antonio and his auxiliary closes by telling Bishop D'Arcy that they “join you in prayer for President Barack Obama. It is our hope that he will enter into an honest dialogue with Church leaders that will lead him to reconsider his positions on the critical issues in defense of human life at every stage.”

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Just after joining Catholic Church, Tony Blair questions teaching on homosexuality

London, England, Apr 8, 2009 (CNA) - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking in an interview with a homosexual magazine, has advocated that Pope Benedict XVI “rethink” the Catholic position on homosexual acts.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered" but does not comment on homosexuality's origins. The Church also calls on Christians to treat homosexuals with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity," the Catechism of the Catholic Church says.

Blair, who converted to Catholicism in 2007, told the gay-oriented magazine Attitude there was a “generation difference” on the issue.

“Actually, we need an attitude of mind where rethinking and the concept of evolving attitudes becomes part of the discipline with which you approach your religious faith,” he said. He argued that there is “fear” among religious leaders that “if you concede ground on an issue like this, because attitudes and thinking evolve over time, where does that end?”

"You'd start having to rethink many, many things. Now, my view is that rethinking is good, so let's carry on rethinking," he said.

"Look, there are many good and great things the Catholic Church does, and there are many fantastic things this pope stands for," Blair said.

"But I think what is interesting is that if you went into any Catholic church, particularly a well-attended one, on any Sunday here and did a poll of the congregation, you'd be surprised at how liberal-minded people were."

In 2008 the former prime minister launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. According to the mission statement posted on its website, the foundation aims to “promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions and show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.”

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