Philadelphia, Pa., Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Saying it was “most unfortunate” that the “invalid ceremony” took place within his archdiocese, Archbishop of Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali has said that those who participated in a “pseudo-Ordination” of two women on Sunday have been automatically excommunicated by their act.
Cardinal Rigali said those who presented themselves for supposed ordination as well as those who “falsely claim” to ordain them have been excommunicated.
On Sunday a self-professed bishop from South Africa named Patricia Fresen and a female bishop from Maryland led a ceremony in a Christian chapel inside Congregation Mishkan Shalom, a Reconstructionist Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The cardinal explained Catholic teaching in a statement, saying the ceremony is “in violation of the constant teaching of the Church, based on Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”
“Both clearly indicate that Jesus called only men to follow Him as Apostles, and the Church has always regarded his choice in this matter as normative for all time. Therefore, she has always followed Jesus' example by choosing only men for the ministry of Holy Orders.”
Saying the teaching on ordination had been confirmed by the Catholic Church as “definitive and irreformable,” he said the Church is “not authorized by Christ to confer Holy Orders upon women, and cannot do so, no matter how ardent a person’s desire may be.”
“All Catholic men and women bring different yet equally valuable gifts to the Church. The Church is strongest when the gifts given by Christ to all her members are celebrated and respected,” he continued. Cardinal Rigali then quoted Pope John Paul II’s 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which said the role of women in the life of the Church remains “absolutely necessary and irreplaceable.”
“God's gifts, however, are never given to individuals merely for their own fulfillment, but for the unfolding of his plan of salvation in the Church for the benefit of the whole community of the faithful, and no one's true personal dignity in the Church can be fostered in opposition to the will of Christ Himself.
“Consequently, such a pseudo-ordination ceremony denigrates the truth entrusted to the Church by Christ Himself, and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the respect and dignity accorded to women by Christ and His Church.”
Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the group that attempted to carry out the “ordinations,” is planning three more ceremonies next month.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Vietnamese state media have “fiercely attacked” two Redemptorist priests, accusing them of critically damaging national unity and blocking the national construction and development process. In what some see as a preparation for a government crackdown, the media are accusing the priests of the capital crime of plotting to overthrow the Communist regime.
The tactic is commonly practiced to target opponents whose leadership among ordinary citizens is perceived as a threat to the current regime, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.
While property ownership disputes between the Catholic Church and the Vietnamese Government have caused tension in recent years, the controversy has expanded to include the government’s bauxite mining plans.
On Sunday the New Hanoi newspaper, run by the Party Committee of Hanoi City, began journalistic attacks against Thai Ha Church. The newspaper took aim at Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, spokesman of Thai Ha Redemptorist Monastery.
The paper denounced him for “instigating parishioners in order to cause divisions, inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law and instigating others to violate it.”
The priest was also criticized for organizing a candlelight prayer vigil on Saturday night to protest a construction project at a lakeside which belonged to Thai Ha parish.
Soon after Easter, the local government suddenly began a construction project at the 4.5 acre site surrounding Lake Ba Giang. The property has been legally owned and managed by Thai Ha parish.
The construction caused much anxiety and distress among the priests and parishioners of Thai Ha. The faithful objected to the construction, asking for an immediate suspension of the project and a legal process to resolve the issue peacefully.
Before the candlelight vigil, police repeatedly sent “urgent summoning orders” to Thai Ha Monastery asking Fr. Nguyen to be present at Hanoi Criminal Investigation Department for the “clarification of a number of documents.”
The action was seen as a threatening tactic designed to destroy the vigil, Fr. An Dang tells CNA.
On Monday the Capital Security Newspaper joined the New Hanoi in its attacks on Fr. Nguyen, claiming he taught false Church doctrine to incite violence against the government.
Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy, another Redemptorist priest in Saigon, was then attacked by the New Hanoi because he had openly criticized bauxite mining plans. The priest set up a web site asking Catholics in Vietnam and abroad to sign an electronic petition which called for an immediate suspension of the mining in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
The New Hanoi accused Fr. Joseph Le of “stupidity,” “ignorance,” causing critical damage to national unity, and plotting to overthrow the communist regime.
The paper called for the government to apply “immediate and severe punishment” against the two priests “before they go too far.”
Such allegations, especially the accusation of plotting to overthrow the government, were so severe that “many have believed that Vietnam government has been preparing public opinions for an imminent crackdown,” Fr. An Dang writes.
At the candlelight vigil by Lake Ba Giang, Catholics prayed for the government and expressed their opposition to the bauxite mining. Protesters signed a petition against the plans, which the Vietnamese prime minister called “a major policy for the state and the [Communist] party.”
Critics of the government’s bauxite mining plans include a diverse coalition of scientists, intellectuals, former officials and other Vietnamese at home and abroad. Opponents charged that any economic benefit would be outweighed by detrimental long-term environmental and social damage from the operations.
Over 50 scientists have said the plans would cause irreversible environmental damage in the nearly 700 square miles set aside for mining and processing.
A dissident Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Do, has said the mining would destroy the way of life of the region’s ethnic minorities. His view was highly regarded and his call for action was widely supported by many citizens.
Dearborn, Mich., Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Organizers of a website encouraging University of Notre Dame alumni and donors to withhold donations until its president is replaced say they have confirmed over $8.2 million dollars have been withheld as part of their efforts. The group describes the figure as “very conservative.”
ReplaceJenkins.com aims to encourage donors to withhold donations to the university until its president, Rev. John Jenkins, CSC, is replaced.
A press release from ReplaceJenkins.com says the site has received over 900 pledges from alumni and donors promising to withhold future donations. Several of the largest gifts include estate bequests to the university that have been removed from donors’ wills.
The site was organized by Notre Dame alumni and financial supporters who opposed the invitation of President Barack Obama as commencement speaker and honorary law degree recipient because of his support for abortion.
David DiFranco, a 1995 graduate of Notre Dame and ReplaceJenkins.com spokesman, said the organization knew many people were unhappy with the decision to honor President Obama, but “never expected this large of a response.”
“We can hardly keep up, and this is only the beginning. We can only imagine what fundraisers at the University are experiencing, but understandably not reporting.”
DiFranco reported that the website’s verification of large donors’ withholdings has been “carefully conducted.”
“We are speaking directly with donors, and in several cases we have spoken with estate attorneys to confirm that Notre Dame has been stripped from a donor’s will. We are going about this process with a critical eye in order that that the numbers we report are accurate.
“For that reason, the $8.2 million we are reporting today is actually very conservative.
“As momentum continues to build, we are now certain that the financial penalty, resulting from the decision to honor the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history, will be enormous,” DiFranco said.
“The fact that this effort is necessary is unfortunate,” DiFranco added. “However, alumni and supporters of Notre Dame have little other recourse than to protest with their pocketbooks. We will continue our efforts as long as it is necessary to bring about positive change at Notre Dame that will honor ‘Our Lady’s’ University.”
Vatican City, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Italians in the Abruzzo region are still recovering from the devastating earthquake that struck the area northeast of Rome on April 6, killing 300 and injuring thousands. Tuesday morning Pope Benedict visited victims of the disaster, and said his "poor presence" is intended as a "tangible sign of the fact that the crucified Lord is risen and does not abandon you."
The Holy Father was originally scheduled to travel to the region by helicopter, thus enabling him to survey some of the damage from the earthquake, but poor weather forced the Pontiff to take a car.
The first stage of his visit took him to the village of Onna, where he spoke to the people living in temporary shelters.
The Pope noted that the village was "one of the places that paid a high price in terms of human lives," and said that he was close to the victims "from the first moment." "I followed the news with great concern, sharing your disbelief, your tears for the dead, and your anxious concerns for what you lost in an instant."
"Now I am here among you," Benedict said to the quake survivors, adding, "I would like to embrace you affectionately, each one. All the Church is here with me, accompanying your sufferings, participating in your pain for the loss of relations and friends, and desirous to help you rebuild the homes, churches and businesses that collapsed or were seriously damaged in the tremor. I have admired and continue to admire the courage, dignity and faith with which you face this serious trial, showing great determination not to give way to adversity."
The Holy Father also addressed the difficult conditions that the victims are facing. "I am well aware that, despite the solidarity forthcoming from all sides, there are many daily discomforts involved in living outside your homes, in cars or tents, especially because of the cold and rain."
"My poor presence among you," he offered, "is intended as a tangible sign of the fact that the crucified Lord is risen and does not abandon you. ... He is not deaf to the anguished cries of so many families who have lost everything: houses, savings, work and sometimes even human lives. Of course, His tangible response comes though our solidarity, which cannot be limited to the initial emergency but must become a stable project over time. I encourage everyone, institutions and companies, to ensure that this city and this land may arise again."
Those who died in the disaster were not far from Benedict XVI's mind either.
"They are alive in God," he said, "and await from you a testimony of courage and hope. They hope to see the rebirth of their land, which must once more adorn itself with houses and churches, beautiful and solid. ... Love remains, even beyond the river-crossing of this our precarious earthly life, because true Love is God. Those who love overcome death in God, and know that their loved ones are not lost."
The Holy Father then concluded his remarks by reading a special prayer for the victims of the earthquake.
The basilica of Collemaggio in L'Aquila was the next stop on the Pope's visit. At the church he pronounced a brief prayer in front of the casket containing the remains of Pope St. Celestine V, one of the few things to have survived the earthquake in the basilica. As a sign of his spiritual participation, Benedict XVI left on the casket the pallium with which he was vested at the beginning of his own pontificate.
The House of Students of L'Aquila also received a visit from the Pope, who greeted university students who used to reside there. Some of the students were killed in the quake.
The first leg of the Pope's mission of mercy came to an end with a visit to the training school of the "Finance Guard" where, having greeted mayors and pastors from the 49 communities most affected by the tremor, he gave an address to those present.
Vatican City, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - One week after canonizing five new saints for the Church, Pope Benedict XVI will preside over the priestly ordination of 19 deacons, as the Church celebrates the fourth week of Easter.
The ordination ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 3 at nine o'clock in the morning at St. Peter's basilica.
Concelebrating with the Holy Father will be the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini; bishops and auxiliary bishops from the Diocese of Rome. The superiors of the respective seminaries and parish priests of those being ordained will also be present.
L'Aquila, Italy, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Touring the earthquake-damaged Abruzzo region of Italy on Tuesday, Pope Benedict met with rescue workers and those impacted by the quake. During an address to the victims, he assured them of his solidarity and encouraged them saying, “L'Aquila, though wounded, will arise once more."
At midday, when the Holy Father arrived in the courtyard of the training school of the “Finance Guard,” he addressed the Italian rescue workers as well as those affected in the region. Over 300 died and thousands were injured in the April 6 earthquake.
Benedict XVI began by noting that the training school courtyard served as the headquarters for rescue operations following the earthquake.
“This place, consecrated by the victims' prayers and tears, represents a symbol of your tenacious determination not to give way to discouragement." Quoting then the motto of the Finance Guard - "Nec recisa recedit" (Will not back down, even if destroyed) - he pointed out that it "seems to express well what the mayor defined as your firm intention to rebuild the city, with that constancy which characterizes you people of the Abruzzo region."
The Pope explained that this visit, which he wished to make from the moment of the earthquake, “is intended as a sign of my closeness to each one of you, and of the fraternal solidarity of the entire Church.”
"The truth is that as a Christian community we are a single spiritual body, if one part suffers, all the others suffer too; if one part struggles to arise, all share in that effort,” he explained. “I must tell you that expressions of solidarity have reached me from all sides. Many high-ranking figures of the Orthodox Churches have written to assure me of their prayers and spiritual solidarity, also sending economic aid."
Pope Benedict continued by underlining the importance of solidarity, “which, though chiefly demonstrated at moments of crisis, is like a fire hidden under the embers. Solidarity is a highly civic and Christian sentiment, a measure of the maturity of a society. In practical terms it is expressed in aid work, but it is not merely an efficient organizational machine; it has a soul and a passion which arise from the great civil and Christian history of our people, whether it takes an institutional form or is expressed through volunteer work.”
He added that the gravity of the earthquake calls the community and the Church “to profound reflection” during the celebration of Easter.
“At Easter,” he said, "we celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ, bringing your pain to our minds and hearts, and praying that those affected would not lose their trust in God and their hope. The civil community must also undertake a serious examination of conscience, and ensure it always shoulders its responsibilities.
“On this basis L'Aquila, though wounded, will arise once more."
Benedict XVI concluded his address by invoking the protection of Our Lady of Roio, for "all localities affected by the earthquake" and, having sung the Regina Coeli, placed a golden rose at the foot of her statue.
Following his visit, Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican by car.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, is encouraging the faithful to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe for an end to the swine flu epidemic that has taken the lives of more than 100 people in the country.
The cardinal also called for the beginning of novena prayers this past Sunday, asking “the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary of Guadalupe, to free the city and the country of this threat that looms over its inhabitants, as she has miraculously done in the past, especially during the plagues suffered in this same city in 1554, 1695, 1736 and 1850.”
The prayer in its entirety reads:
Holy Mary of Guadalupe:
You love us with special tenderness,
You watch over us with maternal intercession
And you always grant us your efficacious help.
We implore your protection and aid
To quickly overcome this epidemic
That has affected our nation.
Shelter us under your mantle,
Deliver us from this illness.
Intercede for all leaders
And those who must make decisions,
That they may have the wisdom to establish measures and priorities
For prevention and the assistance of the entire nation
And especially for those who are most vulnerable.
Grant us prudence and serenity
In order to act responsibly
And thus avoid being infected or infecting others.
Come to the aid of health care workers
Watch over the recovery of the infirm
And give comfort to those who are in mourning.
Mother of the True God for whom we live,
You who have rescued us from other plagues,
Commend us to the mercy of the One who healed us by his wounds
And freed us from death by his Resurrection.
Teach us to unite our suffering to his
In order to find its redemptive meaning
And to come out of this adversity
Strengthened in faith, hope and love. Amen.
The Bishops’ Conference of Mexico has issued a statement calling on all Mexicans to diligently observe the guidelines for preventing the spread of the illness.
Health care officials have said “the situation is under control, and therefore we invite all to assist in prevention and to strictly follow the recommendations that are periodically announced to the public,” they said.
The bishops also noted they would be attentive to any new information and trust that officials are doing everything possible to eradicate the outbreak.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s weekly newspaper, Desde la Fe, called the second anniversary of the legalization of abortion up to the twelfth week “disastrous,” saying the Mexican capital has been turned into a “murderous city,’ with more than 23,000 abortions and 14 maternal deaths as a result.
In an editorial, the newspaper reported that during the last three years organized crime has taken the lives of 10,000 people, but in two years legal abortion has taken more than twice that number in public hospitals.
The editorial warned that this “immoral, unjust and intrinsically perverse” law is clouding “the consciences of all those involved,” but above all it is poisoning new generations that are beginning to see abortion as something normal, despite the fact it entails the death of innocents in the maternal womb.
However, the newspaper praised the measures taken by numerous Mexican states to modify their constitutions, “close the door” to the legalization of abortion and thwart the efforts of intolerant and aggressive groups. These groups, the paper charged, “do not hide their hatred for the Church and their evil inspiration, and seek to impose on all of society their hedonistic, irresponsible and egotistical idea of fulfillment.”
Madrid, Spain, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - On Saturday, April 25, three volunteers of the Right to Life organization and a Chilean in the town of El Ferrol were victims a brutal assault by a group of seven young people who attacked them as they were collecting signatures against the law on abortion sponsored by the Socialist government.
Gador Joya, the organization’s spokeswoman, is demanding the attack be condemned by federal officials in the province of Galicia and that they bring the assailants to justice.
“Once again we see the lack of arguments of those who defend the most radical positions: intolerance and violence have no place in a state based on the rule of law,” she said.
“Unfortunately, these acts have taken place after the Minister of Equality herself (Bibiana Aido) expressed scorn for those of us who civilly express our rejection of their legal reform of abortion and who have been labeled ‘fundamentalists.’” This poor example by Aido, said Joya, “speaks very little of the prudence that every leader ought to have, especially in order to discourage violence by the most extreme groups, such as that which we suffered today in El Ferrol.”
The president of the watchdog website HazteOir.org, Ignacio Arsuaga, expressed solidarity with the pro-life activists and said, “No matter how much they threaten us, hit us or insult us, they will not stop us. Acts like these only reaffirm our convictions, which we defend with absolute civility and in accord with our right to freedom of expression, in response to those who make violence their only argument.”
Jaime Dias, one of the victims of the assault, said from the hospital where he is recovering that he was not disheartened by the incident. “I am fine, I did my duty by following what my conscience told me,” he said. “Whenever they let me know, I will go back on the streets to collect signatures. Nobody is going to silence me with violence,” he said.
Washington D.C., Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Despite opposition from pro-life advocates concerned about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ extensive support of abortion, her nomination as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 65-31.
Sebelius garnered five more votes than the 60 needed in the 100-seat Senate.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the “potential pandemic” of swine flu made the confirmation “essential.” Other Democrats pointed to the need for healthcare reform as a justification for the action.
Some Republicans and pro-life advocates had opposed Gov. Sebelius’ nomination, citing her support for abortion and her ties to notorious late-term Kansas abortionist Dr. George Tiller. She initially claimed to have received $12,450 from Tiller between 1994 and 2001. On April 14, she reported that she had actually received $39,600.
Fellow Kansans Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, as expected, voted for Gov. Sebelius. His decision to support her nomination was another source of controversy in the debate.
In 2008 Gov. Sebelius, a self-described Catholic, was admonished by Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F. Naumann and told not to present herself for Holy Communion until she made a worthy confession and publicly repudiated her stance on abortion.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of El Salvador recalled this week that the legislative term in that country ends on April 30, and he urged lawmakers to ratify an amendment to the constitution in order to prevent homosexual unions from being made equal to marriage.
The archbishop expressed his concern that an agreement has not been reached “for the constitutional protection of marriage.”
The amendment, approved in April of 2006, needs to be ratified by a majority or 56 out of the 84 members of Congress. Passage will require the support of leftist lawmakers.
Archbishop Escobar Alas said leftist lawmakers have sent the Church a draft that includes “substantial changes” to the laws governing co-habitating partners.
“We vehemently ask that the constitutional amendment be ratified,” the archbishop said, reminding lawmakers they only have “a few hours left to do something that will make the people happy.”
The Salvadoran Congress is planning to meet in session this week before the new legislative year begins on May 1.
Caracas, Venezuela, Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, said this week that consecrated men and women “bear witness that only God satisfies the aspirations of the human heart.”
The cardinal’s comments were part of his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life, which will be marked on Sunday, May 3. In his message the cardinal recalled that “because Jesus has desired to make use of human cooperation in order to carry on his presence, we need many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.”
Responding to the Pope’s invitation to pray for vocations, Cardinal Urosa said, “We raise our prayers to the One and Triune God, that He may grant that many young people in Caracas, from our Catholic families, our parishes and schools, will hear and follow His call to be messengers of peace and reconciliation, of life and salvation, missionaries, heralds of the risen Christ, ‘the way, the truth and the life.’”
Cardinal Urosa continued by describing the work of priests and religious.
“The priest is the center and motor of all pastoral action, of the life of the Church, from the proclamation of the faith, to the celebration of the Eucharist, to the encouragement of communities, to the formation of lay apostles. The consecrated bear witness that only God satisfies the aspirations of the human heart. Without priests there is no Eucharist, without the consecrated the Church is weakened. We risk the future of the Church in this area: vocations to the priesthood and to religious life,” he said.
Referring to the “Great Continental Mission” that the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean initiated at their last gathering, Cardinal Urosa said, “The carrying out of the Continental Mission of Evangelization is a great project of renewal and revitalization of the Church in all of Venezuela.” He added, “It is a true necessity and, at the same time, it will lead to a growth in the number of young people who want to dedicate their lives to the Lord in this beautiful and luminous way that is the priestly and consecrated life.”
Providence, R.I., Apr 28, 2009 (CNA) - Providence College has blocked a campus speech to be given by the vocal illegal immigration opponent and former congressman Tom Tancredo, saying that the speech was sponsored by an unofficial group and that the congressman’s position on immigration contradicts the Catholic approach to the issue.
A Monday statement from the Rhode Island college said that the student group which planned to host Tancredo, Youth for Western Civilization, was not officially sanctioned. According to the Associated Press, the statement also said that the former congressman’s stance on illegal immigration “directly contrasts” with that of Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin.
Bishop Tobin, who is a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, has called on federal immigration authorities to halt mass work enforcement raids and to grant conscientious objector status to agents who refuse to participate.
Tancredo was elected to Congress in 1998 and stood for the Republican nomination for president in late 2007 instead of running for re-election. He is known for his strident views on illegal immigration and has proposed a bill that would have limited citizenship to children born to at least one parent who was also a U.S. citizen or lawful resident.
A Tuesday statement from the Diocese of Providence said that Bishop Tobin was not involved at any time in the decision to prohibit Tancredo from speaking.
“Nonetheless, as the local Bishop and as a proud member of the Board of Trustees of Providence College, Bishop Tobin fully supports the decision of the administration regarding this matter,” the diocese said, adding that the bishop appreciates the college’s recognition of the Church’s position on immigration in the United States.
The diocese’s statement said Bishop Tobin has called for “comprehensive immigration reform” and supports debate on the issue that is “robust” and “productive and respectful” while “avoiding inflammatory rhetoric that unfairly stereotypes groups of people and further divides our nations.”
The group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement said it will host Tancredo on Wednesday at the Pawtucket Veterans of Foreign Wars building where it normally meets. Its founder Terry Gorman told the Associated Press that Tancredo would speak that same day at the gates of the college.
Providence College said that if a similar request is made in a future semester it would encourage and facilitate the hosting of a discussion on illegal immigration in a format that “allows for multiple points of view to be expressed.”