Archive of April 14, 2009

Cardinal Pell discusses renewal in Australia after World Youth Day

Lima, Peru, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia recently visited one of his priests who is serving in the Peruvian jungle. While the cardinal was in Lima, CNA was able to ask him about his views on the Church in Australia post-World Youth Day, the hopes of Pope Benedict for liturgical renewal, the effectiveness of condoms in fighting AIDS in Africa and many other topics.

The full interview with Cardinal Pell is published below.

CNA: I would like to start by asking you to talk about the Church in Australia. As you’re probably aware, we’ve heard a lot in the United States and in the English-speaking world, about either a rebellious pastor against his bishop or a diocese that is not in full compliance with the teachings of the Holy See.

What is the real situation of the Church in Australia from your perspective?

Cardinal Pell: These two incidents are not typical of all the Church in Australia. I’m surprised to hear in Peru that there is trouble in Toumba. It was a surprise to me. Apparently the bishop has some differences with the Holy Father, and I’m sure that between them, that matter will be resolved in some way. The great mass of Catholic Australia is loyal to the Catholic practice, loyal to the Holy Father and loyal to the bishops. For many years this parish in Brisbane has been a difficult parish, and I suspect that it has become less and less and less Christian. I think the priest said, “only a tribal god would want somebody to pray to him” and the god that he believes in is a common god. Like the god described in the Asian mystical writings. So really, it is not a struggle about the nature of Catholicism, but it is a struggle about the teachings of Christ, the centrality of Christ’s idea about God. It is a struggle with a type of Gnosticism and I fully support the archbishop as he struggles with this difficult parish.

CNA: How significant was World Youth Day in shaping the present and the future of the Church in Australia, especially in your Archdiocese, which was the host for the event?

Cardinal Pell: It is a little bit early to say, because we are only less than 1 year after World Youth Day, but in Sydney, we worked very hard. One of the Auxiliary Bishops, Bishop Julian Porteous, he trained 600 leaders and they went out into over 50 shopping centers around Sydney inviting young people to come to the World Youth Day. So, I think there were 400,000 people at the final Mass, the biggest gathering in Australian history, not just religious history, but all Australian history. Most of those were young people, that gives you a better idea of the vitality of Catholic life. We have had an increase in the number of youth groups, the confidence and the morale of young Catholics, in the Church and in Christ has risen. One priest told me he received 25 people, members of 3 or 4 families into the Catholic Church because they had been hosts to overseas pilgrims at the World Youth Day. I know of some dioceses where there was very little youth work, and now they have teams of animators working. So, there are many good signs and certainly in some places, two already, an increase in vocations.

CNA: Your eminence, you have to fly frequently to the Vatican. In your travels in Europe, in general, how do you see the situation of the faith in Europe, which was the birthplace of the faith in many of our countries, like Latin America, the United States, and even Australia?

Cardinal Pell: The situation in Europe is very mixed. For example, the Church is still very strong in Poland. There are many strong elements of the Church in Italy. There are other places the Church has collapsed in Holland, although it is starting to recover and to return. In some parts of [former] East Germany, 70 to 80% are not baptized, and it is interesting that in East Germany, the population has collapsed. In some suburbs, the houses have been left empty and the suburbs have been turned into parkland. But the Church in Bavaria, southern Germany, is quite strong. So there are major challenges with secularization. Spain has a big battle on its hands, and not just Zapatero, but with the forces of secularism behind Zapatero, which enable him to do those things. The Church is also very strong. The new movements are very strong in Italy and Spain, France, many challenges, but also oases of great vitality.

CNA: There are some people that say the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hell will not prevail were not made about a geographical church, therefore, one day, sooner rather than later, Europe could end up being like Northern Africa where the Church has completely disappeared. Are you optimistic?

Cardinal Pell: I try not to be on any side, I try to be a realist. Europe will not be like North Africa, because as I was reading in a book, there are many more good young Catholics in the movement than good young Muslims and the presence of the Muslims for future peace and cooperation is a major challenge. But the other great challenge is secularism. We should not underestimate the capacity of European Catholicism to recover and to return. Many, many Catholics there are well aware of these challenges and are working hard to combat them. So, not in our lifetime, will Europe be like North Africa.

CNA: You are a member of several dicasteries, and until very recently you were a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 10 years. Now you are a member of another very important dicastery, which is the Congregation for the Divine Worship.

What would you say are the main challenges or the main desires of the Holy Father related to the Liturgy?

Cardinal Pell: Perhaps I could mention two of his ambitions. First of all, he wants to emphasize the vertical dimension of worship. In other words, that when we celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments, its not just a community celebrating itself, we are worshiping the One True God and Jesus His Son. This is central to the Holy Father’s idea of the Liturgy.

The second point he wants to emphasize is that certainly with the Second Vatican Council, there has been development, also liturgically, [by] making use of the vernacular, which is overwhelming approved in the different countries, but there is a basic continuity, the tradition continues. Many of the traditions of piety continue to be useful with the young people, for example, at the recent meeting of the Congregation for Worship. The theme was the worship of the Blessed Sacrament. Now 30 years ago, this was taboo in certain Catholic circles. It was a sign that you were old fashioned pre-conciliar, in the English-speaking world at least, also in other places. Now with our young people, they are often not theologically well instructed, but they love adoration, because, I think, they understand the need for adoration, for worship, but also because they lead busy, noisy lives and they come to love the silence, the silence of worship and prayer. ... I have said publicly, as a priest long ago, immediately after the council, I never imagined that in 40 years we would have an hour of adoration in St Peter's led by the Holy Father. Life is full of surprises. This is a very good surprise; it is a good return to our fundamental sources.

CNA: Because of your duties at different dicasteries, you have the opportunity to interact with the Holy Father, and you knew him before when he was the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Because of his trip to Africa and his statement about AIDS and the way that the Church has to fight against AIDS, he has been again portrayed as a man that is stiff, that is not in contact with reality of the world, that he is too dogmatic, and some other adjectives have been applied to him.

How would you describe the real Benedict XVI?

Cardinal Pell: Well anyone who knows him, and the young people, the people who see him celebrate the big public Mass know that he is not stiff. He might be somewhat reserved, but he is very friendly and very affable, in the best sense of the world, he is a cultivated Christian gentleman. He is enormously well informed. I think he is the best living Catholic theologian. He knows, for example, he knows an enormous amount about the Australian Church; I would be very surprised if he did not know an enormous amount about the Peruvian Church. He is extraordinarily well informed, also with a fantastic memory.

Now, on the matter of AIDS, anyone who follows the Christian teaching will be criticized. For example, let me mention a couple of facts. In South Africa there are condoms everywhere and AIDS is rampant. Up in Uganda the situation is somewhat better because they were following the ABC [approach]. A: abstinence for unmarried people, B: be faithful for married people and C: condoms only for drug addicts or prostitutes. This was a government, not a Church doctrine. In Asia, in Thailand, not a Catholic country, condoms everywhere, but AIDS is much more prevalent there than in the Philippians, where the Catholic teaching is for abstinence. I remember traveling to Australia with a secular health worker from West Africa, he was not a Catholic and not particularly sympathetic, but he said, “this talk about condoms solving all these big problems is ridiculous because in many isolated parts of Africa, they cannot get condoms, they cannot afford condoms, they are low quality condoms, and they often don’t know how to use them properly, it is in no sense an effective measure.” AIDS has a dimension of a spiritual crisis, and you cannot solve a spiritual crisis simply with a rubber device, it calls for the heart to be involved, personal discipline and decisions. If people followed Christian teachings—fidelity within marriage, no sexual activity outside of marriage— there would be no spread of AIDS.

CNA: What does the priesthood, as a vocation, mean to you?

Cardinal Pell: Well, my priesthood is very important to me. It is something that is different than my baptismal responsibilities because it is conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We believe that Jesus at the Last Supper, when he said to his Apostles, “Do this in memory of me,” that he ordained them as we now call them priests, and also in the New Testament, we have Paul writing about the “laying on of hands,” the ceremony, that the ministry of the priesthood would be continued.

I think priestly identity is enormously important to the priests, that they understand that their role in the Church is unique because not only must they follow their first duty of preaching the Word of God, but also they must celebrate the Sacraments, celebrate Baptism and Eucharist, but also all the other Sacraments, the great Sacrament of Reconciliation, of pardon, of giving God’s forgiveness. These bring immense dignity to the office, but also immense responsibilities. Now, unfortunately, many of us priests are pretty ordinary, but our ordinary lives are in contrast to the dignity of our office. It is not a temporary vocation, it is a permanent office in which we are called and we believe in our heart of hearts, that we are marked by this ordination to the ministry of the priesthood. So we try to do what Jesus did.

CNA: You just recently visited some of your priests who are working as missionaries in the Peruvian jungle in the Amazon, how do you see them, as priests, making a difference compared to any other (non-priest) health or social worker in that very difficult area of work?

Cardinal Pell: We visited Fr. Juan Anderson, who is a Sydney priest who has worked in the parish of St. Rose of Lima in Iquitos for 20 years, and all I would say to people that ask me the difference, would be to ask them to go to his parish and see the difference that he has made, see the vitality and the faith and the goodness of the people there. His parish is producing vocations, he has a small group of acolytes, servers, adults, who meet every Saturday afternoon for an hour or an hour and a half and they’ve been doing this for 16 years, some of them become seminarians. We met two of them who are becoming doctors, they’re doing their 5th year internship in the hospital. They have different sorts of social works in the parish to further educate the women in sewing and things like that; the very vital liturgy committee, [the] youth committee. In my very small group, there were three of us from Sydney, we were very impressed by the happiness and vitality of the children in Iquitos, and they’re livelier than they are in Lima, at least livelier than the ones we met in Lima. That would be an example of the vitality and friendliness of the people from the jungle. I think their goodness and kindness is also the result of generations of Christianity, of the following the teachings of Christ. Fr. Anderson kept us very, very busy. We were at many Masses and celebrated many Sacraments. On Saturday, I baptized 50 young soldiers, and then we confirmed them and about 50 others. On the Sunday, I baptized 55 babies and blessed 4 marriages, and the couples were very happy. They were there with their children, and they were very happy to receive the blessing of the Church. It was a wonderful visit and it was a wonderful visit, and it was wonderful to see the local people that loved Fr. Anderson.

CNA: What would you say to a young man that is considering the vocation to the priesthood?

Cardinal Pell: I would say consider carefully that the vocation to be a good layman and the vocation to be a priest are two very honorable vocations. It is important to try to workout why you want to be a priest. If a person has a real vocation from the Lord, and it is true there are difficulties, every life has difficulties; I can say as an older man, I have received 100 fold.

Priests, who work and serve their people, try to pray regularly, celebrate the sacraments, work hard, they receive immense consolation from their work, from the friendship of their people, and from seeing their people grow, and seeing the goodness of their people. The priests’ ability to help people when they are sad and sick, when they are in the difficulty, the Church does great work. This morning we went to the sisters of the Divine Plan, the sisters of the Sodalitium. We visited their center for handicap children—wonderful work. The children were alive and happy and smiling as they were served by all the lay teachers, as well as the nuns, and in good facilities. That’s one beautiful example of the Church at work.

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Pope to visit northern Italy on November 8 to remember Paul VI

Vatican City, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will travel to the city of Brescia in northern Italy on November 8 to preside at the celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI.
The Pontiff will inaugurate the “Paul VI Center” at Brescia, dedicated to preserving the late-Pope's writings and promoting the authentic interpretation of Vatican II.  The home where Giovanni Montini (Paul VI) was born will be part of the new center.
“The visit is reason for great joy for our priests and for the entire Church in Brescia,” said Bishop Luciano Monari.
Pope Paul VI named Joseph Ratzinger the Archbishop of Munich on March 24, 1977, and then made him a cardinal on May 28 of the same year.  Pope Paul VI died on August 6, 1978.

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Paraguayan president admits he has a 2 year-old son

Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - The president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, admitted Monday he was the father of Guillermo Armindo Carillo Canete, a two-year old boy he fathered in a relationship with Viviana Carrillo, who recently filed a paternity suit against the former Catholic bishop.

The former bishop of San Pedro and follower of Marxist liberation theology, admitted that he had a relationship with the woman, whom he met when he was still a bishop and she was 16. He acknowledged he was the father of her son, born in May of 2007.

“Before my conscience and out of respect for all of the people who have placed their trust in me, I state with the utmost honesty, transparency and sense of duty, with regards to the controversy caused by a supposed paternity suit, that it is true that there was a relationship with Viviana Carillo,” the president said.

“In response,” he continued, “I assume all of the responsibilities that derive from such a fact, acknowledging the paternity of the child,” the president said during a press conference at the Government Palace.

In her lawsuit, Carrillo details the beginnings of her relationship with Lugo when he was still a Bishop and claims she was still his companion during the electoral season. “In 2006, at the same time that he was Director of the Divine Word College of Asuncion, I moved to the capital at his request, where we continued to see each other, but in secret because he was very well-known, and because of that he became involved in politics, visiting me from time to time at San Lorenzo,” she said.

“The last straw for me, the reason for this lawsuit,” Carrillo continued, “was that the last time we saw each other, we were sitting inside the plaintiff’s vehicle arguing again about his lack of care for his son, and after pointing out to him that I couldn’t be begging him every month so that his son could eat, and that apparently he didn’t love him, he slapped me on the face and told me never to say that.”

Fernando Lugo, who was a member of the Missionaries of the Divine Word, resigned in 2005 as Bishop of the Diocese of San Pedro. Soon after he began to lead demonstrations and announced his candidacy for the 2008 elections. In 2006 he renounced the clerical state, but the Vatican ordered him to respect his priestly commitment and to abstain from entering political life.

After winning the elections last year, Lugo was stripped of the clerical state on July 30, 2008, by a decree from the Congregation of Bishops. He was also dispensed from his religious vows, from the vow of celibacy and “the other obligations required of the clerical state.”

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UNICEF and PHO look for 'alliance' with the Church but without renouncing abortion

Lima, Peru, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Representatives of UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization have proposed forming a “strategic alliance” with the Catholic Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, but without renouncing abortion, the promotion of the morning after pill, gender ideology and many other topics that contradict the teachings of the Church.

The Director for Latin America of the Population Research Institute, Carlos Polo, told CNA that the proposal was made to the Justice and Solidarity Department of the Bishops' Conference for the Caribbean and Latin America (CELAM) during a meeting in Quito, March 23-27.

Polo, who participated in the meeting as part of the Peruvian bishops’ delegation, explained, “I was very interested to hear what representatives of UNICEF and the PHO would say to members of the children’s and youth ministry of the different Episcopal conferences of Latin America.”

“I know many of those who were in attendance, and I knew they would be aware of the double-speak of these organizations involved in birth control and abortion around the world. In fact, various bishops, priests, religious and lay people who were there listened with bewilderment to these officials,” Polo recounted.

According to Polo, it became obvious during the course of the meeting that “it is not possible to work with organizations that actively promote an ideology that leads many away from the faith or to allow that [ideology] under the pretext of helping some children, [when] others are aborted.”

Polo requested interviews with Dr. Oscar Suriel, International Advisor for Family and Community Health at the PHO, and with Dr. Manuel Manrique Castro, who introduced himself as an official with a long career at UNICEF and now in charge of reigniting the relationship between UNICEF and the Catholic Church.

Both officials were told the interviews were for journalistic purposes and would be recorded, and both voluntarily agreed to participate, Polo said.

When asked about the PHO’s promotion of abortion by Polo, Dr. Suriel “at first completely denied his organization engaged in such activity.” However, Polo told CNA that he then “quoted from some PHO documents showing that it had been one of the political actors behind the pressure to get the Nicaraguan government to reinstate so-called ‘therapeutic’ abortion.” Dr. Suriel responded to the documents presented by Polo by saying that the “PHO does support therapeutic abortion but not abortion per se.”

But Polo also pointed out that the PHO supported the law legalizing abortion in Mexico City. Dr. Suriel had “no response.” “Suriel’s contradictions only increased as we discussed the issue of the morning-after pill and so-called reproductive rights,” Polo said.

During his interview with Dr. Manrique, Polo asked him about UNICEF’s involvement with abortion and “reproductive health.” “These are small matters that do have much importance,” Manrique replied. However, Polo noted that the official website of UNICEF sells and distributes suction machines that are used to perform abortions. Manrique said he didn’t believe that to be the case, and that he was aware of the accusation but that it was unfounded.

When confronted with UNICEF’s support of therapeutic abortion in Nicaragua and Mexico, Manrique replied that it was related to “cases that dealt with particular persons.” “In a failed attempt to explain this situation,” Polo added, “he ignored that the signature of a UNICEF official and its logo appears on public documents, as I showed him.”

“Even more incredible was his explanation about the promotion among young people of condoms for the prevention of AIDS, which UNICEF carries out. Manrique told me it was not an official position of the Catholic Church and he quoted examples of some bishops who support the use of condoms in these cases,” Polo continued. Dr. Manrique mentioned the secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia and various Brazilian bishops, to which Polo replied: “Isn’t Pope Benedict XVI, who was recently attacked for saying the contrary, the official voice of the Church? Manrique responded, ‘That is what you say.’”

After the interviews were finished and the cameras were turned off, Carlos Polo told CNA that both Manrique and Suriel “harshly criticized my questions about these issues and they urged me not to broadcast the videos. Suriel said, ‘You don’t know how much money will be lost if this collaboration does not take place.’”

Commenting on these statements, Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren, president of the Peruvian bishops’ Committee on Life, Family and Childhood, said, “Many Catholics who are unaware of the anti-life policies of these international organizations deserve to have full knowledge of their ideology and concrete actions and how they are totally incompatible with the doctrine and ministry of the Church.”

“UNICEF and the PHO don’t seem to understand that we are apostles and not mere social workers. We also convey the Lord of Life in every social work we do. If we cease to be apostles, the loss for the Church in terms of her identity would be incalculable. Jesus referred to this when he said if salt loses its flavor, it is only good to be trampled underfoot. So as far as we are concerned, they can keep their money. We will keep our Faith and our commitment to human dignity,” the archbishop said.

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Former ambassador to the Vatican: Caroline Kennedy would be wrong choice

Boston, Mass., Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - In an interview with the Boston Herald on Good Friday, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn said Caroline Kennedy would be a "mistake" as a pick for his former diplomatic post.

“It’s imperative, it’s essential that the person who represents us to the Holy See be a person who has pro-life values. I hope the president doesn’t make that mistake,” Flynn told the Herald on Friday. “She said she was pro-choice. I don’t assume she’s going to change that, which is problematic.”

Flynn said that while he understands the famous Kennedy clan is close to Obama, selecting Caroline could hurt the new president politically.

According to the Italian magazine Panorama, Sen. John F. Kerry has asked Obama to consider Caroline Kennedy for the Vatican ambassadorship.

Flynn, a former mayor of Boston and a veteran Democrat, took out several ads during the 2004 presidential campaign scolding then-Democratic presidential nominee Kerry for his pro-choice stance.

“I don’t know how they get out of this. I don’t know how they effectively deal with it now. They need to find someone who is a pro-life Democrat,” Flynn said of the Obama administration. “The president is going to Rome in July and it’s very important that there be an ambassador on the ground at that time.”

The Massachusetts Catholic Action League has also stated that the potential appointment of Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican is unacceptable.

Action League Executive Director C.J. Doyle said Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, shouldn't be offered the Vatican ambassador post since she "rejects" the Roman Catholic Church's teachings, the Boston Herald reported Friday.

"It's inappropriate to appoint someone who pretends to be a Catholic but rejects the fundamental teachings of the church," Doyle said.

On April 10th, Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, said there was "no truth" to the reports claiming the Vatican has rejected several candidates for U.S. ambassador to the Holy See because of their support for abortion.

But this past Saturday, Vatican sources told the Italian paper Il Giornale that Ms. Kennedy and other Roman Catholics floated by President Barack Obama for the ambassadorship were disqualified by their support for abortion.

President Obama was reportedly seeking to reward John F. Kennedy's daughter, who publicly gave her support to his election bid. She had been poised to replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator, but dropped out amid criticism that she lacked enough experience for the job.

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Homeland Security Report equates 'abortion opponents' with white supremacists

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - According to a Homeland Security Report distributed to law enforcement organizations, abortion opponents are as great a threat to national security in the immediate future as white supremacists.

The nine-page document was sent to police and sheriff's departments across the country on April 7 under the headline, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The report is unclassified, but is accompanied by a warning that says it “contains information that may be exempt from public release under the Freedom of Information Act.”

The report was prepared by the Extremism and Radicalization Branch of the Department of Homeland Security and claims it was “coordinated with the FBI.”

“Rightwing extremists,” the document says, “have capitalized on the election of the first African American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.”

Nevertheless, according to the report, the combination of a prolonged economic downturn, the election of the first African American President and the return of many veterans with "combat skills" could create an environment similar to the early 90's, which lead to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The report describes "Rightwing extremism" broadly as “those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Under the title “Revisiting the 1990s,” the report claims that “paralleling the current national climate, rightwing extremists during the 1990s exploited a variety of social issues and political themes to increase group visibility and recruit new members.”

“Prominent among these themes were the militia movement’s opposition to gun control efforts, criticism of free trade agreements (particularly those with Mexico), and highlighting perceived government infringement on civil liberties as well as white supremacists’ longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, inter-racial crimes, and same-sex marriage.”

The report “is provided to federal, state, local, and tribal counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.”

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Paraguayan bishops issue statement on president’s admission of paternity

Asunción, Paraguay, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Paraguayan Bishops’ Conference issued a statement today on the admission by President Fernando Lugo that he fathered a child with a 16 year-old girl when he was still a Catholic bishop. In their statement the bishops asked “forgiveness for the sins of the members of the Church, those of both pastors and the faithful.”

“As bishops,” they said, “we renew our commitment assumed at Episcopal ordination and we ask all our priests to put into practice the promises recently confirmed at the Chrism Mass. We beg of the Holy Spirit, as Church, the grace of a profound purification.”

They asked the Catholic faithful and all people of goodwill to pray “for us that we will be faithful to our priestly and episcopal mission.”

The bishops also called for prayers “for the entire Catholic Church in Paraguay so that the sense of belonging to her, of all the faithful, will be grounded more and more on the Risen Lord, on his life, his words and his works.”

They concluded by uniting themselves “to the Mother of the Lord Jesus, the Most Holy Virgin Mary, in her humble desire to put into practice in our lives ‘whatever He tells us,’ with faith and conviction, to follow in his footsteps, as his missionary disciples, with renewed hope.”

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Pope sends Easter eggs to children affected by L'Aquila earthquake

L'Aquila, Italy, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) -

In a new gesture of solidarity and closeness to the victims of last week’s earthquake that hit the Italian city of L’Aquila, Pope Benedict XVI sent hundreds of Easter eggs to the children of the region.

Although the Church does not normally celebrate Mass on Good Friday, the Pope granted an exception for the earthquake victims, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone led a funeral Mass for the dead. He also read a personal letter Pope Benedict sent to the quake survivors.

The Pope’s gift was received by Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari, who expressed “thanks to the Pope for his great closeness during this tragic time. This is also a sign of closeness to our children,” he said.

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Thousands of Cubans participate in Way of the Cross in Old Havana

Havana, Cuba, Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Thousands of Cubans participated in the Way of the Cross through the streets of Old Havana on Good Friday, AFP news agency reports.

Led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana, thousands of the faithful walked the short route between the Cathedral and the Church of Christ of the Good Voyage, in Old Havana. The Cuban faithful sang songs and prayed as they walked by the Square of St. Francis of Assisi and historic streets such as Amargura Street, named after a similar one in Jerusalem.

The Way of the Cross and other Holy Week liturgies were celebrated in other Cuban cities as well, although there are no holidays during Holy Week in Cuba. Processions were outlawed in the 1960s, but the government began to allow them again after the historic visit to Cuba by John Paul II in 1998.

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Notre Dame president argues bishops' statement not for Protestants like Obama

South Bend, Ind., Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. John Jenkins, the President of the University of Notre Dame, has written a letter to the school's board of trustees, defending the university’s invitation of President Obama to the school’s May commencement ceremony. Fr. Jenkins argues in his letter that while many have criticized the school’s move, canon lawyers and the USCCB document, “Catholics in Political Life,” both support his action.

In the letter, posted in full on LifeSiteNews, Fr. Jenkins recalls the June 2004 USCCB statement on Catholics in political life and cites “two key sentences” that “have been frequently quoted” in criticism of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama.

The first sentence is: “Catholic institutions should 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.”

However, Jenkins explains, he interpreted the line to refer only to dissident Catholics, not Protestants such as President Obama. “Because the title of the document is ‘Catholics in Political Life,’ we understood this to refer to honoring Catholics whose actions are not in accord with our moral principles.”

“This interpretation was supported by canon lawyers we consulted, who advised us that, by definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church teaching can act in ‘defiance’ of it,” he continues. “Moreover, fellow university presidents have told me that their bishops have told them that in fact it is only Catholic politicians who are referred to in this document.”

Fr. Jenkins does not address the close to 30 bishops who have interpreted the statement to include Protestants by condemning the Obama invite.

In his letter, Fr. Jenkins moves on to the next sentence in the bishops’ document: “They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Fr. Jenkins defends his interpretation of the line by saying that in “every statement I have made about the invitation of President Obama and in every statement I will make, I express our disagreement with him on issues surrounding the protection of life, such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  If we repeatedly and clearly state that we do not support the President on these issues, we cannot be understood to ‘suggest support.’"

Finally, the document states that "we need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended.  This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials... ."  Fr. Jenkins notes that, “However misguided some might consider our actions, it is in the spirit of providing a basis for dialogue that we invited President Obama.”

“On May 17 we will welcome the ninth President who will receive an honorary degree from Notre Dame,” the priest-president concludes.  “It will be an important opportunity to bring the leader of our nation to Notre Dame, and, I hope, a joyful day for our graduates and their families.”


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Archbishop Dolan says Notre Dame’s Obama invite sent wrong signal

New York City, N.Y., Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop-designate of New York Timothy Dolan on Monday spoke with the Associated Press about the challenges he and the Catholic Church in New York face. Though saying that the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama was a mistake, he insisted that Catholics should engage with abortion rights supporters and politicians.

By inviting President Obama to deliver the commencement address and to receive an honorary degree, Notre Dame wrongly signaled to students “we hold him up as a model to you,” Archbishop Dolan told the Associated Press.

He said the president could have been invited to Notre Dame to speak without honoring him.

"The word we have to keep using is engagement," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Dolan said he wants to restore pride in being Catholic, especially following the scandals arising from clerical sexual abuse, which he described as a continuing source of shame.

Archbishop Dolan also spoke about the need for Catholics to defend their faith.

"Periodically, we Catholics have to stand up and say, `Enough'," Archbishop Dolan told the Associated Press. "The church as a whole still calls out to what is noble in us."

Appealing to fallen-away Catholics, he said he plans to tell them “We need you. We love you. The Church is your family… Please come back. We miss you. We're sorry if we hurt you. We'll listen to you. It's not the same without you.”

With numerous news reports saying that New York Governor David Paterson will introduce a bill in the state legislature on Thursday, the archbishop said he would challenge any efforts to recognize homosexual “marriage.” Speaking of homosexuals, he also said, “We love them… we would defend their rights.”

Archbishop Dolan told the Associated Press that the pioneering television evangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen is among his heroes, and that he prays every day with a rosary used by Archbishop Sheen.

Addressing his anxiety about taking over the Archdiocese of New York, he closed his Monday interview by saying, “I hope at my core, I hear Jesus say, `Timothy be not afraid’.”

At his installation as Archbishop of New York on Wednesday afternoon, he will become the leader of some 2.5 million Catholics in the archdiocese.

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Cabinet nominee Gov. Sebelius misreported donations from late-term abortionist

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2009 (CNA) - A new report shows that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, significantly underreported the size of donations she received from a notorious late-term abortionist.

Responding to questions from the Senate Finance Committee made public last week, Gov. Sebelius wrote that she received $12,450 from Kansas late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller between 1994 and 2001, the Associated Press reports.

However, records show Tiller gave at least $23,000 more between 2000 and 2002 to the Bluestem Fund, a political action committee established by Sebelius to raise money for fellow Democrats and her own campaigns.

During committee hearings Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) specifically asked the governor about any Tiller donations to her PAC.

“There was an oversight in the initial answer provided to the committee,” HHS spokesman Nick Papas on Monday told the Associated Press. “Obviously donations to the PAC are a matter of public record. The governor is updating the answer to this question and will resubmit it to the committee.”

The discrepancy is the second that Gov. Sebelius has had to explain during her confirmation process. Previously, she corrected three years’ worth of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes to fix improper deductions.

The records concerning Tiller’s contributions were circulated by Operation Rescue and verified by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Operation Rescue said the discovery raises “ethical questions” about the governor’s fitness to serve.

The pro-life group also continues to criticize Gov. Sebelius for hosting Tiller and his abortion clinic staff at a 2007 reception at the governor’s mansion.

While Sebelius has claimed the reception was donated as a fundraising item for a non-profit group, Greater Kansas City Women‘s Political Caucus, Operation Rescue has claimed the group was in fact a political action committee.

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