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Archive of May 7, 2009

CNA launches Twitter channel ahead of papal visit

CNA STAFF, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - CNA is launching a channel on the micro-blogging site Twitter to provide our readers with quick updates on Catholic news around the world. Make sure to check in as we begin our live coverage of the Pope's visit to the Holy Land on Friday.

 

Our new Twitter account, called “CNAlive,” will give you the latest information from Amman and Jerusalem, beginning on Friday morning. After the papal visit, CNA will continue to provide updates on the latest news via Twitter.

 

Visit CNAlive at http://twitter.com/cnalive.

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Edinburgh official apologizes for ‘distress’ caused to grandparents who opposed homosexual adoption

Edinburgh, United Kingdom, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Edinburgh city council chiefs have admitted mistakes in the treatment of the grandparents of two children placed with a homosexual couple for adoption, apologizing for the "distress" social workers may have caused.

A social worker allegedly told the grandparents that they would have no further contact with the children after they went public with their objections to a homosexual adoption, the Scotsman reports.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the two grandparents, aged 59 and 46, were told they were too old and unfit to care for their grandchildren, whom they had been caring for because of their mother’s struggles with heroin use.

The two grandparents defended their custody rights against four successive legal challenges from the local adoption and foster council, but abandoned their legal fight because of potential legal fees and concerns for the stability of their grandchildren’s lives.

However, they were later informed that their grandchildren would be placed with a homosexual couple. The grandparents claimed that social workers told them their access to the children would be restricted if they opposed the homosexual adoption. They were allegedly threatened that they would never see their grandchildren again because they had made public the fact of the adoption.

The Scotsman reported on Sunday that chief social work officer Michelle Miller, replying to the grandparents’ official complaint, said she could not comment on the allegedly threatening conversation.

However, she said it would have been better if staff had held a face-to-face meeting with the grandparents.

"I apologize for any distress that not doing so may have caused," she said.

According to the Scotsman, the grandmother said "We just want our grandchildren back. The council has not behaved at all well."

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Bishop Blair bans New Ways homosexual ministry workshop

Toledo, Ohio, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop of Toledo, Ohio Leonard Blair has banned a workshop on homosexual ministry that was scheduled to start on May 1, saying its positions were "not at all in accord" with U.S. bishops’ guidelines and do not present the "full, authentic teaching" of the Catholic Church.

The three-day workshop was offered by New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based group that describes itself as "a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian and gay Catholics." According to the Toledo Blade, the workshop was to take place at the Sisters of St. Francis campus in Tiffin, Ohio.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo diocese, said that Bishop Blair had sent a letter to Sister Jacquelyn Doepker, head of the Sisters of St. Francis, asking her to cancel the workshop.

According to the Toledo Blade, Bishop Blair in his letter said "the positions of New Ways Ministry are not at all in accord with the guidelines for pastoral care which the bishops of the United States issued in 2006 regarding 'Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination.' Nor does New Ways Ministry present the full, authentic teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality."

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways, told the Toledo Blade he was "very disappointed" by Bishop Blair’s decision and said there is a "misconception" about points cited in the bishop’s letter.

"Our programs, especially like the one we were going to have in Tiffin, are designed to help people who are working in Catholic institutions. We are not trying to subvert the church but to build on a positive tradition of welcoming lesbian and gay people that is in the church's teaching and pastoral practice," DeBernardo said.

Reporting that New Ways has been in operation for 32 years, he told the Toledo Blade that the ministry abides by church doctrine, which he said "makes a big distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior."

DeBernardo reported that New Ways Ministry has not held a workshop in the Toledo area for about a dozen years. The last local workshop was held in a non-Catholic setting because of scheduling conflicts and not due to controversy.

Saying he had spoken with Bishop Blair, DeBernardo said the bishop was upset. According to DeBernardo, the bishop said he did not like that New Ways Ministry has occasionally "challenged the bishops or the Vatican to be more understanding of lesbian/gay people."

"But that doesn't mean we're out to destroy the church or to be in opposition of church leaders," DeBernardo told the Toledo Blade.

The Vatican has recently named Bishop Blair to assess the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization representing most of the United States’ Catholic nuns, including the Tiffin Franciscans.

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New contraceptive drug for men ignores Church teaching

Baltimore, Md., May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Chinese researchers have reportedly developed an injectable male contraceptive that has few side effects. However, an ethicist explained to CNA, if the drug is going to be used as a contraceptive, then its use would violate Catholic teaching because "contraception that interferes with conception is intrinsically evil."

The reversible contraceptive is a combination of testosterone in tea seed oil, All Headline News reports.

According to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the study involved 1,045 Chinese men between 20 and 45 who had already fathered at least one child. The men were injected with the formula for 30 months, during which only one percent of the study participants fathered a child.

No serious side effects were reported and reproductive function returned to normal levels in all but two participants, All Headline News says. Dr. Yi-Qun Gu, a researcher of the drug with the National Research Institute for Family Planning in Beijing, said more testing is required to determine the contraceptive’s effects on cardiovascular, prostate and behavioral health.

In a Wednesday phone interview, CNA spoke about the reported development with Fr. Alfred Cioffi, a National Catholic Bioethics Center staff ethicist and priest of the Archdiocese of Miami who possesses a doctorate in moral theology and a doctorate in genetics.

He said if the reported drug is going to be used as a contraceptive, then its use would violate Catholic teaching because "contraception that interferes with conception is intrinsically evil."

"It goes against the procreative aspect of the marital act," he explained, saying that Catholic teaching holds that the marital act has unitive and procreative dimensions that must be respected.

"Artificial contraception, whether by the husband or the wife, directly interferes with the procreative dimension of the marital act, and that is why the Church would oppose it," he said.

Drugs which cause infertility may only be used if infertility is a side effect of the treatment, as in some cancer drugs, and not as an intentional effect.

Voicing his personal opinion about the social effects of the new male contraceptive, he said:

"Typically when we’re dealing with pregnancy, the burden is always on the woman because the man is not going to get pregnant. So unless a woman demands he is going to use a contraceptive, why would he use this medication?"

"A man would have to be very conscious of not fathering a child to take the medication and go through the expense," he speculated.

Fr. Cioffi offered Natural Family Planning (NFP) as "the healthy, ethical, and moral alternative to artificial contraceptives."

Catholic teaching accepts NFP as a means of regulating birth because it is not an interference with a woman’s reproductive cycle.

However, its use to avoid children at a particular time must be justified by a "grave reason," such as financial or psychological concerns.

"The Church does not say to the couple ‘you must have a child every time you have intercourse,’" Fr. Cioffi explained to CNA. "But there’s a focus in favor of having children, and that decision [to use NFP] has to be reviewed periodically to see if that condition no longer applies."

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Receiving Canterbury Medal, Archbishop Chaput warns of religious freedom loss

New York City, N.Y., May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Upon receiving a medal from a group dedicated to religious freedom, Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said that God the Creator is the foundation to beliefs about the sanctity and “infinite value” of human life. He also warned that American religious liberty will be lost if it is not defended and if an increasing disdain for faith and religious believers is underestimated.

 

The archbishop delivered his remarks on Thursday in New York City after being awarded the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal, which is given to persons who “most resolutely refused to render to Caesar that which is God's.”

 

Past Canterbury Medalists include Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson, Gov. and Mrs. Mitt Romney, financiers Foster Friess and Ted Forstmann, and former U.S. Ambassadors to the Vatican James R. Nicholson and Mary Ann Glendon.

 

Beginning his remarks about the importance of religious freedom, the archbishop said that the United States is “a nation that only really makes sense in a religion-friendly context.”

 

He said the nation’s Founders had “a tragic sense of history” and “few illusions about human perfectibility” because of the “world of faith” that shaped their experience.

 

“The Founders certainly had hope in their ability to build a ‘new order of things’ -- but only under the judgment of a Creator. In other words, they had a sane kind of hope; the biblical kind that’s grounded in realism, because they also believed in sin,” the archbishop remarked.

 

Their grasp of the nobility and weaknesses of human nature meant that American ideals require “a certain kind of citizen to make them work.” Archbishop Chaput then cited a John Adams quotation about the U.S. Constitution being made “only for a moral and religious people” and being “wholly inadequate” for any other.

 

The archbishop said “the bedrock” of our common moral heritage was the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God; you will not have foreign gods before me.”

 

“All of our Western beliefs about the sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights ultimately depend on a Creator who guarantees them. In other words, we have infinite value because God made us. No human being or political authority can revoke that infinite value. Only God is God.”

 

Any other pretention to answering human suffering and hope is “finally an impostor and a road away from God’s light.”

 

Archbishop Chaput said this view of the value of human life was in direct contrast to a contemporary American spirit in which science can “comfortably” coexist alongside “superstition or barbarism.” As the Western moral consensus weakened alongside the progress of science, people did not become more ethically mature.

 

“The 20th century was the bloodiest in history, and today the occult is flourishing right alongside our computers and Blackberries,” he said.

 

“Knowledge is merely knowledge. Power is merely power. Nothing inherent to knowledge or power guarantees that it will translate into wisdom or justice or mercy.”

 

He quoted a passage from President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech about restoring science to “its rightful place,” contrasting this with a passage from the 2008 Vatican document Dignitas Personae:

 

“The dignity of a person must be recognized in every human being from conception to natural death. This fundamental principle expresses a great ‘yes’ to human life, and must be at the center of ethical reflections on biomedical research, which has an ever greater importance in today’s world.”

 

Archbishop Chaput said that the rightful place of science is “in the service of human dignity, and under the judgment of God’s justice.”

 

“Science can never stand outside or above moral judgment. And people of faith can never be neutral or silent about its uses. Otherwise, sooner or later -- but unavoidably – human beings, their rights and their dignity pay the price.”

 

America cannot survive without being predisposed and welcoming to religious faith, the archbishop insisted.

 

“[W]e were founded as a religious people, but with public institutions that avoid religious tests.  American public life depends for its life on Jews and Protestants and Latter Day Saints and Catholics and all religious believers vigorously advancing their convictions in public debate. We need to do that peacefully and respectfully, but we need to do it -- without evasions or apologies or alibis. Otherwise we’re stealing the most precious things we have – our religious faith and our moral character – from the struggle for the common good. And the God who loves us will nonetheless hold us accountable for that cowardice.”

 

Noting that freedom of religion is “woven” into foundational U.S. documents and “hardwired” into Americans’ assumptions, the archbishop explained he had not truly understood this religious freedom until he served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. There, he said, he witnessed “the systematic abuse of religious believers” in foreign countries.

 

“Some of that same contempt for religious faith and disdain for serious religious believers is now part of our own national dialogue. And we underestimate it at our own great cost,” he warned.

 

While Americans take religious freedom seriously, the archbishop said “times change, and nations change.”

 

“The freedom of faith we all enjoy in this country needs to be earned and defended by all of us, again and again, or we’ll lose it… Freedom needs to be purchased with a constant witness of courage, intelligence and action.”

 

The archbishop closed by saying the Canterbury Award matters because the Becket Fund and its work for religious liberty matter “for every American religious believer and for all our citizens, whether they know it or not.”

 

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Fr. Berg leaves Legion of Christ to join Archdiocese of New York

New York City, N.Y., May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Fr. Thomas Berg, Executive Director of the New York-based Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, announced today that he will be leaving the Legion of Christ to join the Archdiocese of New York and will continue his ministry as the head of the institute.

Fr. Berg released a brief statement explaining his decision and his motivations for the change:

“After nearly 23 years of life as a Legionary of Christ, I have discerned that it is time for me to continue following Christ in the diocesan priesthood.  Although the recent revelations about the Legion’s founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel, were profoundly disturbing, my decision has actually been in the making for nearly three years.

Like so many, I have personally experienced again and again the vast amount of good which God has accomplished through Legionary priests and the congregation’s works of apostolate over the past six decades of its existence.  I leave with a heart grateful to Christ who I know accepted and blessed the oblation of my years of religious consecration in the Legion. 

In my opinion, the serious issues within the congregation will require its thorough reformation if not a complete re-foundation. I am hopeful that the upcoming Apostolic Visitation of the Legion will be a first step toward a new beginning for the Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi. I trust that God in his providence will lead them to holiness and enable them to do great things for Christ and his Church.   For my part, I remain their friend and brother in the Lord.

My work as executive director of the Westchester Institute will continue under the direction of a new Board and no longer under the Legion’s sponsorship. By this means and through a very active ministry in the Archdiocese of New York, under our new Archbishop Timothy Dolan, I look forward to continuing to live my total consecration to Christ in his priesthood.

My hope is that this brief statement would preclude unnecessary and unwarranted speculation about the reasons for my decision.  Having released it to the press, I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.”

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Site calls for nation wide Catholic ‘Tea Party’ during Obama commencement at Notre Dame

Washington D.C., May 7, 2009 (CNA) - A single-page website, www.prayfor44.com, is inviting Catholics across the U.S. to lead “respectful” prayer meetings, preferably on the same day and at the same time in which President Barack Obama will be honored at the University of Notre Dame.

The idea, according to the promoters of the initiative, is to organize a nationwide, prayerful “Catholic Tea Party” that, they hope, will become viral.

“Dear 44th President, we pray that you may see clearly and defend the value of all human life, from the moment of conception. God bless you,” says the website, which is suggesting that the simultaneous prayer vigils take place on May 17, while President Obama visits Notre Dame.

The site offers a Google Calendar with Catholic events already organized around the Notre Dame controversy.

Those interested in organizing local “Catholic Tea Parties” are encouraged to contact   [email protected].

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President of El Salvador meets with Holy Father, discusses social concerns

Vatican City, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - This morning Pope Benedict met with Elias Antonio Saca Gonzalez, president of the Republic of El Salvador discussing the countries struggles and commitment to further development.

 

According to a press release from the Holy See, their discussion “focused on various questions concerning internal issues and the current international situation noting, among other things, the country's commitment to promoting co-operation in the area of trade, to the struggle against organized crime, to the field of education and emigration, and to social promotion.”

 

Recently the country has been shaken by a wave of violence that erupted during election season.

 

"Finally,” the statement went on, “the good relations between Church and State were highlighted, and the hope expressed that they may grow stronger in order to favor spiritual progress, pacification and national development."

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Bishop Quinn to lead Diocese of Winona

Vatican City, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Today Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop Harrington from his post as Bishop of Winona. Harrington, who served the diocese as bishop for nearly 11 years, will be replaced by Winona’s co-adjutor bishop, Most Rev. John Quinn.

 

The diocese which has an estimated Catholic population of 131,280, will receive Bishop John M. Quinn, 63, as their new bishop. According to the diocese, his previous work includes a Masters and Doctorate in Systematic Theology at the Catholic University of America. He’s worked as a teacher, as the Director of the Detroit Archdiocese Office of Justice and Peace, and the Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Catechetics and Education. 

 

Quinn’s appointment did not come as a surprise because a co-adjutor bishop automatically succeeds the bishop of the diocese upon retirement, removal, or death.

 

Harrington, who served as the seventh Bishop of Winona, submitted his resignation, as required at the age of 75, and was accepted by Pope Benedict. Harrington previously served his native Archdiocese of Detroit as President of Sacred Heart Seminary College, Director of the Department of Formation, and as a regional bishop for Macomb and St. Clair Counties.

 

Before retirement, CNA reported that Harrington joined the chorus of bishops that denounced Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama with an honorary degree at their commencement address next week, by saying the decision was a “no win” for the Church in the United States.

 

 

 

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Benedict XVI explains how the love of Christ brings universality and solidarity to the Church

Vatican City, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - This morning, Pope Benedict met with the 32 Swiss Guards who were sworn in as members of the corps yesterday. In his words to them, he how important it is to experience the love of Christ and how it unites Catholics from all corners of the world.

Addressing the new recruits in French, Italian and German, the Pope reminded them that one of their missions is "to watch over the home of the Pope, the Apostolic Palace, ... yet not only over the building itself and its celebrated rooms, but particularly over the people you will meet and to whom you will demonstrate your courtesy and concern: ... over the Pope himself, over the people who live with him, and over his collaborators and guests in the Palace."

He continued saying that their task "also touches the life you share with your comrades in arms, who ... have the same duty to serve the Supreme Pontiff 'faithfully, loyally and in good faith' and to give, if necessary, their lives for him."

Turning his attention to the city of Rome, the Pope highlighted its "rich history and culture," at the same time noting how "faith and prayer have over the centuries been transformed into stones and buildings. This is the environment in which we live and that inspires us to take as our model the countless saints who have also lived here, and who help us to progress in our life of faith."

Pope Benedict pointed out that "the center of the Universal Church" is located in Rome. Here, he continued, "we encounter Christians from all over the globe. The Catholic Church is international. Yet in her multiplicity she is nonetheless one Church, expressing the same confession of faith and tangibly united by her bond to Peter and his Successor, the Pope.

"The Church brings together men and women from very different cultures," he added in conclusion. "They form a community in which people live and believe together and, in the essential things of life, understand once another. This is a very important experience which the Church wishes to pass on to you so that you can make it your own and communicate it to others: the experience that through faith in Jesus Christ and in His love for mankind, even such different worlds can become a single unit, creating bridges of peace and solidarity between peoples."

 

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Students for Life asks Obama to ‘educate’ staff on pro-life movement

Arlington, Va., May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Students for Life, a national pro-life student organization, sent President Obama a letter saying they were "alarmed" at the administration’s "ignorance" by including pro-lifers in the Department of Homeland Security’s Assessment of "Rightwing Extremism" report and requested that Obama "educate" his staff on the goals of the movement.

Last month, CNA reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) equated being "abortion opponents" with white supremacists. Since the release of the report, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has retracted some of the statements from the report concerning veterans, but has failed to retract any of the reports comments made about the pro-life movement’s inclusion in the report.

Students for Life, which has local organizations at over 492 universities, said the report was "extremely insulting" and clearly showed the Obama Administration’s "ignorance" about "what [they] stand to accomplish."

The letter also referenced a previous DHS Reference Aid, Domestic Extremism Lexicon. The report said that pro-lifers were "a movement of groups or individuals who are virulently antiabortion and advocate violence against providers of abortion-related services, their employees, and their facilities. Some cite various racist and anti-Semitic beliefs to justify their criminal activities."

In response to these reports, Students for Life clarified that this description is "terribly inaccurate." They explained to Obama that their group includes all political parties, races, "people of faith and no faith," and said that his Administration’s charge was "absurd" and was "labeling" 48% of the 18-29 year-old group as "violent extremists."

Their letter also noted that their group works "tirelessly every day" to "educate the campus body about the procedures of abortion, the risks and complications of abortion, and fetal development." They also work to help the mother after giving birth by lobbying their administrations to "reduced cost daycare, flexible class schedules, and student-parent housing."

The conclusion of the letter clearly reminded Obama that none of their mission statements promoted anything "racist, anti-Semitic, violent, or disrespectful to the United States" and that anyone who "commit acts of violence are, in fact not pro-life."

Students for Life also requested that Obama "educate" his staff "about the goals of the pro-life movement" and correct their misguided views. They also offered to meet with Obama to discuss their "visions and goals" for America.

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Benedict XVI comes to the Holy Land to deepen its Christian presence, bishop says

Rome, Italy, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo of Jerusalem said during a recent interview that Pope Benedict XVI, who begins his historic visit to the Holy Land this Friday, is going to the region “to confirm his brethren in the faith, to deepen the roots of the Christian presence there, and to strengthen our relations with others.”

 

In an interview with the magazine L’Azione, the bishop explained, “Now we still have many problems, but there is less violence right now than before. The proof is in the great number of pilgrims who are visiting our land. There is climate of non-violence,” he said.

 

For this reason, he explained, “the Pope’s visit could contribute to improving the atmosphere and the trust between Israelis and Palestinians.”  He said the Pontiff’s trip, while important from a diplomatic point of view, will be more important pastorally and spiritually for Holy Land.

 

Commenting later about relations between the Church and Judaism, Bishop Marcuzzo said there have been recent “tensions,” but that the Pope’s trip would “help to calm the waters in our relations.  The Pope’s visit will show how close Christians and Jews are.”

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Bad examples do not invalidate the value of priestly celibacy, says bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Juan Ruben Martinez of Posadas in Argentina said celibacy cannot be reduced to a "mere imposition of the Church" and that "bad examples and even our own limitations do not invalidate the contribution of so many who, in the past and today, give their lives for others."

Bishop Martinez said that a "materialistic vision" of man that is based solely on "instinct and the physiological" makes it difficult to these values as a "gift of God" and an "instrument of service to humanity and to the common good." He recognized that "from materialistic anthropology, celibacy and monogamous marriage tend to be considered as something unnatural." However, he warned, "To reduce celibacy to a mere imposition of the Church is in fact to insult our intelligence and Christ himself who was ‘the eternal high priest,’ ‘celibate,’ and gave his life for all of us, and he himself recommended it. It is to insult the biblical texts which show great respect for celibacy and chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, and it insults the Fathers, doctors and pastors of the Church from apostolic times to the present."

"Uniting celibacy with the priestly ministry is a more radical Gospel choice made by the Church based on her authority and supported by the Word of God and the testimony of the saints and of so many men and women who, throughout history, strove and strive through this gift and even through their own frailties to give everything exclusively to God and his people. Bad examples and even our own limitations do not invalidate the contribution of so many who, in the past and today, give their lives for others," the bishop said.

He went on to note that only on the basis of faith can we have "a profound understanding of issues such as life, the family, marriage, the Church and her mission, the priesthood and celibacy."

Bishop Martinez encouraged Catholics to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, "trusting in the initiative of God and man’s response," and he thanked God, who continues to call young people to consecrate themselves to God and their brothers and sisters. "They respond to the call because they believe in love," he said.

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Cardinal Rubiano reiterates Church’s willingness to mediate with FARC

Bogotá, Colombia, May 7, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Pedro Rubiano, reiterated this week the Church’s willingness to mediate in negotiations with the rebel group FARC, but stressed that the group must accept mediation, not be forced into it.

 

Colombian media reported that the cardinal said, “We have always been willing, but obviously this depends also on the FARC.   If the guerrillas really want us to help, we will help.”

 

He rejected claims that the Church wants the FARC to be forced to accept the mediation, and for this reason he said the group needed to “to say if it does or doesn’t want us to participate” in the release of the hostages.

 

“I also call on the guerrillas to understand that the country is crying out precisely for them to once and for all take a step forward,” he added.

 

The cardinal’s comments came after the FARC called the efforts of the Red Cross and the Church in the mission to free a Colombian soldier kidnapped in 1997 insufficient.

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Over sixty St. Louis Catholics plan to join Notre Dame protests

St. Louis, Mo., May 7, 2009 (CNA) -

Dozens of St. Louis Catholics are planning to travel to South Bend, Indiana to take part in May 17 protests against the University of Notre Dame’s decision to host President Barack Obama as commencement speaker and to award him an honorary law degree.

The protesters from the St. Louis area are being organized by John Ryan, a 56-year-old member of Most Sacred Heart Parish in Eureka, Missouri. An announcement from Ryan says the group aims to confront the "scandal" caused by University of Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins’ decision "to honor the most pro-abortion President in history." The group also intends to "make amends for the damage this scandal has caused the Church."

Describing its motives, the announcement cites President Obama’s decision to overturn the Mexico City Policy and to expand federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

"The minute I heard about this, I knew I had to find every Catholic I could and be on that campus that day," Ryan said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Similar scandals have been going on at Catholic universities for decades, but you can’t really get any worse than this."

He has reportedly organized at least 65 St. Louis-area Catholics to drive the 6.5 hours to the campus and back to participate in a "prayerful protest" on the Notre Dame campus.

"In my dreams, when we first started this, I thought if we could have Eucharistic adoration, a Mass on campus with bishops saying that Mass, some graduates who would go into the commencement ceremony and find a prayerful way to witness to the president directly - which Jenkins has not been willing to do - we could bring some good from a terribly evil situation," Ryan said, the Post-Dispatch reports.

He said he had invited Bishop Robert Hermann, administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, to join the group.

Protesters from across the United States are planning to converge on the campus. Their activities are being coordinated by ND Response, a coalition of Notre Dame student groups opposed to the invitation of the U.S. president.

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D.C. council votes to recognize same-sex ‘marriage,’ draws ‘adamant’ opposition from black community

Washington D.C., May 7, 2009 (CNA) -

The Washington, D.C. City Council’s decision to recognize same-sex "marriages" contracted elsewhere prompted accusations of bigotry against a black leader while causing "adamant" protests from the city’s African-American community. Councilman Marion Berry, the lone dissenter in the vote, said the controversial move could trigger a figurative "civil war."

The Archdiocese of Washington said it was "gravely concerned" by the vote and accused the council of pushing through the measure without hearings or the opportunity for public input.

By a vote of 12-1 on Tuesday, the council passed the measure recognizing same-sex "marriages" in other states. According to the Washington Post, "enraged" African American ministers stormed the hallway outside the council chambers and pledged to work to vote out the members who supported the bill.

Councilman Barry, a former D.C. mayor, said he "agonized" over whether to oppose the bill but finally decided to stand with the "ministers who stand on the moral compass of God."

"I am representing my constituents," he said, adding that 98 percent of his constituents are black and "we don’t have but a handful of openly gay residents."

During the debate, openly homosexual council member David A. Catania, an Independent, accused Barry of taking a "bigoted" position disrespectful toward himself and the other open homosexual on the council, Democrat Jim Graham.

"This issue is whether or not our colleagues, on a personal level, view me and Jim Graham as your equals, if we are permitted the same rights and responsibilities and obligations as our colleagues," Catania said, according to the Washington Post. "So this is personal. This is acknowledging our families as much as we acknowledge yours."

Barry responded, saying he has supported homosexual rights since the 1970s but could not vote for the proposal.

"I understand this is personal to you and Mr. Graham. I understand because I have been discriminated against," Barry said. ". . . I resent Mr. Catania saying either you are a bigot or against bigotry, as though this particular legislation represents all of that."

Catania replied that he believed Barry’s position was bigoted, but said he didn’t think Barry himself was bigoted.

"All hell is going to break lose," Barry also said. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."

More than 100 black ministers had signed a letter to Washington Mayor Adrian M. Fenty asking the Democrat to oppose the member.

However, Fenty has said he will sign the bill, which was sponsored by Councilman Phil Mendelson.

After the signing the bill goes before Congress, which has 30 days to review District legislation.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the District of Columbia, said he would try to block the bill.

"Some things are worth fighting for, and this is one of them… It's not something I can let go softly into the night. …I recognize the Democrats are in the majority, but I represent the majority of Americans on this issue."

According to the Washington Post, Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton praised the decision and said she did not believe a "serious attempt" to overturn the council bill will be made or will be successful.

In a Tuesday statement, the Archdiocese of Washington said it was "gravely concerned" by the vote, saying it showed "a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage."

"Furthermore, considering the importance of this issue for families throughout the city, the archdiocese is dismayed that the Council chose to push this measure through as an amendment without hearings or giving their constituents the opportunity to voice their concerns to their elected officials," the statement continued.

"Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws," the Archdiocese continued, saying marriage is "not merely a fact of religious faith or an institution established by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience.

"Civil marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but it is reserved to the union of one man and one woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world, which forms a stable and secure foundation for our society."

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Charity official says papal visit to Holy Land an ‘important sign’ amid ‘immense’ problems

Konigstein, Germany, May 7, 2009 (CNA) -

A charity official says that Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land is an "important sign" in the "nebulous" political situation of the Holy Land. Explaining the "immense" problems facing the Christian community there, she also reported on the continuing preparations for the papal visit.

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, a regional specialist for the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), recently returned from a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. She spoke about her impressions of the Holy Land in an ACN interview.

Siebrecht said individual churches are "very much occupied" with their preparations while Christians are "delighted" that Pope Benedict is coming.

"There are many posters, for example, announcing the papal visit," she said, reporting that Nazareth is building an amphitheatre-like structure where the Pope will celebrate Mass.

In preparation for Pope Benedict’s visit, a stage has been erected in the refugee camp of Aida in Bethlehem, but it was being moved because organizers felt the stage was too close to the separation wall which divides the Holy Land.

Siebrecht told ACN that every Christian who wants to see Pope Benedict probably will not have the opportunity to do so.

"At any rate, not the people in Gaza, and not the people in Bethlehem. But at least the Pope is coming directly to Bethlehem. But many people will not get permission to attend the big Masses in Nazareth and Jerusalem."

Responding to reports that Gaza Christians had voiced many doubts about whether the papal visit was opportune, Siebrecht said there is never going to be a "right moment" for such a visit.

"There is always something going wrong in this region," she told ACN. "I can only tell you what I saw and heard. In the main, people are hoping for a great deal from this papal visit, possibly even too much. For the Pope certainly won't be able to solve all their problems."

"In reality the Pope can only demonstrate goodwill and endeavor to talk to political and Church leaders. But I know from my own experience how difficult this is in Israel."

Siebrecht said the Pope is coming "as a pilgrim to the Holy Land." Though he cannot tear down "this terrible wall" in his visit, or resolve problems in Vatican-Israeli relations, it is "an important sign that he is coming at all."

She expressed hope that Pope Benedict will address the burdens of Holy Land Christians.

Siebrecht explained that it is "extremely laborious" for priests to obtain visas and there are other requirements for Catholic religious orders, for priests, sisters and religious. There is also discussion about whether the state of Israel might demand taxes from the Church.

Additionally, Israeli movement restrictions are an "immense problem" that separate Christian families and cause people to live in fear that they or their family members might someday be unable to return home from work or from visits outside their community.

"It is really very difficult for the Christians in the region around Bethlehem – it is a gigantic weight on the shoulders of these people."

"The people here are living as though in a prison, because of the wall. They can't go in, they can't get out. They feel like prisoners, and that is exactly what they are," she continued.

Siebrecht explained to ACN that several Israeli Jews told her that they believed their new government to be racist.

She added that she believed the conditions of Holy Land Christians will be one of the main topics of Pope Benedict’s discussions and speeches.

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