Archive of May 13, 2009

Bolivian cardinal demands respect for Catholic faith and freedom of worship

Santa Cruz, Bolivia, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Santa Cruz, Cardinal Julio Terrazas, has demanded that the Catholic faith and freedom of worship be respected in Bolivia, in the wake of the destruction of a chapel in the Diocese of El Alto.


During Sunday Mass, the cardinal commented that there are “some signs of concern, which we must think about with fraternal charity, because all of us as Catholics have been hurt by what has happened at the parish in our sister diocese.  To destroy a parish, just because of some harassers, is hurtful. This cannot be permitted,” he said.


“We don’t need to take up arms to defend ourselves, but our people demand to be respected, that our way of worshiping our God be respected, that all efforts built to help those in need be respected and protected,” the cardinal added.


He also demanded that freedom of worship and religion be upheld.  “Catholics are not a minority religion here and therefore it is important that if we have defects or errors that we be told, if something needs to be corrected, it will be corrected, but not by trampling upon us, because trampling upon others always leads to negative consequences.”


Cardinal Terrazas went on to point out that the Church is the bearer of peace, which is so greatly needed in our times in which terror “seems to have taken over everything, in which fear is increasing among our people.  We need the peace of God, this is the first fruit that we need to bear and that the Lord wants.”


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Parents upset over promotion of homosexuality in Spanish grade school

Madrid, Spain, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - The organization, Segovia for Education in Freedom, has voiced concern from parents with children attending a Catholic public school where the students are being exposed to gender ideology through a theatrical play as part of the course, Education for the Citizenry.


The play entitled, “Clara and Daniel,” is a project promoted by the Azar Theater Company, which said its objective “is to provide the faculty with a simple and practical tool allowing them to address the subject of sexual orientation in the classroom,” as well as family diversity.


Inmaculada Lopez, the spokeswoman for Segovia for Education in Freedom, explained that the characters of the play “are Clara, a 9 year-old girl who has two mothers, and Dani, whose real name is Daniela but who is a tomboy.”


Lopez said parents were surprised by the contents of the play.  “When you get information about children’s theatrical works, normally one assumes the contents are not going to be controversial.”  Since this was not the case, she continued, “From now on, all schools—and parents—will have to be on guard especially regarding these activities.”

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Catholic higher ed association president sees ‘degree of ambiguity’ in bishops’ guidelines

South Bend, Ind., May 13, 2009 (CNA) -

The president of the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities (ACCU) has said there is a "degree of ambiguity" in bishops’ guidelines which say Catholic institutions shouldn’t honor individuals who act in defiance of fundamental Catholic moral principles.

The University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement speech and to receive an honorary degree has prompted significant protests from Catholics, in part because of the president’s extreme position on abortion policy.

Critics of the invitation have cited the document "Catholics in Public Life," issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2004, which says Catholic institutions should not honor individuals who defy fundamental Catholic moral principles, nor should they be given platforms that suggest support for their actions.

Speaking to the South Bend Tribune, ACCU President Richard Yanikoski said "It is clear to me that there is a degree of ambiguity in the bishop’s guidelines issued in 2004."

"There are people of good will who, based on the 2004 document, believe greater clarity is needed," he said, explaining that canon law attorneys disagree about whether the guidelines apply to Catholic colleges and universities who honor public figures who are not Catholic.

According to Yanikoski, the "Catholics in Public Life" document was based on an interim report from the USCCB Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians. The task force never produced a final report because the bishop in charge retired.

The responsibility was then passed on to a subcommittee that included four Catholic bishops, four Catholic university presidents and Yanikoski.

Yanikoski reported the subcommittee was dissolved to reduce expenses. Responsibility for the report has been transferred to the bishop’s committee on Catholic education, which has not yet produced a final report.

Yanikoski told the South Bend Tribune that he believes there are people of good will on both sides of the dispute over Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama. He declined to offer his own opinion of the matter.

He added that it is undecided how the bishops’ final statement on the topic should apply to Catholic colleges and universities.

The ACCU has not taken an official position on the invitation. Notre Dame is a member of ACCU and its president Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, serves on the association’s board.

In an April 21 statement, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John M. D’Arcy responded to a claim made by Fr. Jenkins that "Catholics in Political Life" did not apply to the invitation to President Obama.

Bishop D’Arcy, whose diocese encompasses Notre Dame, said the document was "clear" and that doubts about its interpretation should have been referred to him, the local bishop.

"Proper consultation," he said, could have prevented the invitation of the U.S. president and the "painful division" it has caused between many bishops, the school, and a "large number" of the faithful. Bishop D’Arcy added that he considered the document’s interpretation to be "settled."

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Archbishop Burke: Catholics could not have voted for Obama with ‘clear conscience’

Washington D.C., May 13, 2009 (CNA) -

Returning to Rome after addressing the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Archbishop Raymond F. Burke said in an interview that a Catholic who knew Obama’s "clearly announced" agenda on life issues and marriage could not have voted for him "in clear conscience."

The archbishop’s comments came in response to questions from Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online during his flight from Washington, D.C. to Rome.

In her interview, Lopez remarked that Archbishop Burke had seemingly made very clear that Catholic voters "collaborated with evil" when they voted for Obama.

If one is a Catholic who voted for Obama, she asked, "do you have to confess this now that Mexico City, embryo-destructive funding, among other things, have happened?"

The archbishop responded that if a Catholic "knowingly and deliberately" votes for a person who is in favor of "the most grievous violations of the natural moral law," then he has "formally cooperated in a grave evil and must confess his serious sin.

"Since President Obama clearly announced, during the election campaign, his anti-life and anti-family agenda, a Catholic who knew his agenda regarding, for example, procured abortion, embryonic-stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage, could not have voted for him with a clear conscience."

During his campaign, President Obama said he was not in favor of same-sex "marriage" but he endorsed civil unions.

Archbishop Burke, who formerly headed the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is now prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The office oversees the Roman Rota in hearing canonical appeals from dioceses around the world.

In other remarks in his interview with Lopez, the archbishop said that "consistent witness" of Catholics’ respect for the "inviolable dignity" of innocent human life and for the "integrity of marriage" can help change minds and hearts of those who do not see the wrongness of abortion or the need to safeguard marriage and the family from threats like same-sex "marriage."

In addition to prayer and fasting, he added, minds can also be changed by effectively communicating both the "most serious moral implications" of giving parents the right "to destroy the child they have conceived" and the implications of redefining the "fundamental nature" of marriage.

Asked about bishops’ actions toward self-described Catholic politicians who support legal abortion, Archbishop Burke said it was not his place to declare what a diocesan bishop should or should not be doing in a particular situation.

Those concerned about the University of Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama as commencement speaker, he said, should make their concerns known in writing to Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins and Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend John M. D’Arcy. They should also write Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the office responsible in matters concerning Catholic universities.

In his other comments to Lopez, Archbishop Burke praised consecrated virgins as a "strong witness to the purity and selflessness with which we all should love one another" and as a "public witness to the love of Christ for all."

He said he was attracted by the possibility of directly serving Pope Benedict in his Vatican position. Asked to give his advice for his successor in St. Louis, Archbishop Robert Carlson, he declined. However, he noted he had congratulated the prelate.

Lopez noted that the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast audience was at its most supportive when he described the Notre Dame Obama invitation controversy as an "outrage." She asked the archbishop whether he worried whether his audience "waits for the headline-making applause lines" but misses the message about spiritual works and devotionals.

"The heart of my message was conversion of life; prayer and participation in the Sacraments; study and reflection; and action," Archbishop Burke said.

The "strong response" to his description of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama, he said, reflected "the degree to which faithful Catholics are profoundly scandalized by the proposed conferral of an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws upon a highly public figure who is pursuing so aggressively a program of procured abortion and same-sex marriage."

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Clinton struggles to produce evidence to confirm Brazilian abortion story

Washington D.C., May 13, 2009 (CNA) - Last month Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told Congress that half of the women she had seen in Brazilian hospitals "were fighting for their lives against botched abortions." After her comments she was asked to produce evidence as to when she had visited the hospitals or statistics to back her claim, but neither she nor her staffers have been able to produce any evidence.

Clinton, who last year falsely claimed that she had been involved in a sniper attack as First Lady when she visited Bosnia, is now making another claim: half the women in Brazilian hospitals are "fighting for their lives against botched abortions."

After video tapes showed that Clinton was not actually under sniper fire when she was in Bosnia, she said she had a "different memory of the event." Later she said, "So I made a mistake. That happens. It proves I'm human, which, you know, for some people, is a revelation."

The National Catholic Register contacted Department of State spokeswoman Laura Tischler to see if there was any record of Clinton’s trip to Brazilian hospitals. Tischler said, "I am unable to confirm where or when the trip she referred to in her testimony was — where specifically in Brazil she was visiting or when the trip occurred."

Representative Chris Smith, who asked the question that prompted Clinton’s response, remarked, "Pro-abortion activists have a long history of making these type of unsubstantiated claims. That’s how they drive policy — with gross exaggeration of numbers, hyperbole and junk science," according to the NCR.

Smith also said that this approach of exaggerating numbers and using "junk science" was how former abortionist and founding member of NARAL, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, attempted to influence public policy. Nathanson once said that 10,000 women were dying in the United States because of botched abortions, but later after his conversion to Catholicism, said that he and other pro-abortionists exaggerated those claims and the number was closer to 200-250 women annually.

Nathanson said their tactic was simple: "Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public."

It is unclear if Clinton plans a retraction of her statement after evidence has failed to surface.

Her comments can be viewed on at:


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Pope backs Palestinian state, urges youth to turn from violence

Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - Palestinians hoped that if the Pope came to the Holy Land he would visit them, and today they got their wish as Benedict XVI went to Bethlehem. After being received by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Pope stressed the Holy See's support for a Palestinian state and urged the youth to spurn violence, turning their energies to work for peace.

The Pope began by telling the Palestinians, “I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades.”

“My heart goes out to all the families who have been left homeless,” he added, noting that later on Wednesday afternoon he will visit the Aida Refugee Camp to express his solidarity with “the people who have lost so much.”

Saying that he prays daily for a peaceful and just solution in the Holy Land, the Pontiff reiterated the Holy See's backing for “the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders.”

Keep the flame of hope alive, he encouraged, while also reminding his audience of the words of Pope John Paul II, there can be "no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”

The way forward for the region can only be achieved through “a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, in which the rights and dignity of all are acknowledged and upheld,” the Holy Father said.

“I ask all of you, I ask your leaders, to make a renewed commitment to work towards these goals. In particular I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favor of a solution. Believe and trust that through honest and persevering dialogue, with full respect for the demands of justice, lasting peace really can be attained in these lands.”

Pope Benedict also addressed some of the main causes of friction between Israel and Palestine—the freedom of movement, reconstruction of demolished houses and the building of infrastructure.

“Palestinians, like any other people, have a natural right to marry, to raise families, and to have access to work, education and health care,” he insisted.

Of particular concern to the Pope was that the international community help rebuild homes, schools and hospitals damaged during the recent fighting in Gaza.

Finally, the Holy Father directed his words to the “many young people throughout the Palestinian Territories.”

He issued a challenge to them:

“Do not allow the loss of life and the destruction that you have witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts. Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism. Instead, let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace. Let it fill you with a deep desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Palestine, so that it can take its rightful place on the world stage. Let it inspire in you sentiments of compassion for all who suffer, zeal for reconciliation, and a firm belief in the possibility of a brighter future.”

Benedict XVI left the Palestinians with the words, "I invoke upon all the Palestinian people the blessings and the protection of our heavenly Father, and I pray fervently that the song which the angels sang here in this place will be fulfilled: peace on earth, good will among men."

At around 9:30 in the morning, Pope Benedict arrived at Manger Square to celebrate Mass next to the place where Jesus was born.

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Don't be afraid to break ‘stalemate of fear’ Pope tells Palestinians

Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - At the site where tradition holds that Jesus' was born, Pope Benedict proclaimed, "do not be afraid" as he challenged the faithful to commit to building "a culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and frustration."

Manger Square, which includes the Church of the Nativity, was packed with pilgrims from around the world eager to see and hear Pope Benedict.

The spirited crowd waved the flags of their countries, cheered for the Pope and for Palestine as the Holy Father entered the square in the popemobile.

Groups from Poland, Germany, India and the Philippines were among those present, but there were also Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in attendance, a fact noted by the Pope as he began his homily.

"In a special way my heart goes out to the pilgrims from war-torn Gaza: I ask you to bring back to your families and your communities my warm embrace, and my sorrow for the loss, the hardship and the suffering you have had to endure. Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead, and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted," he said.

The Holy Father then turned to the significance of being in Bethlehem, quoting from St. Luke, "Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy … today in the city of David a Savior is born for you." "The message of Christ’s coming," the Pope said, "brought from heaven by the voice of angels, continues to echo in this town, just as it echoes in families, homes and communities throughout the world. It is 'good news,' the angels say 'for all the people'."

"It proclaims that the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of David, has been born 'for you'-- for you and me, and for men and women in every time and place."

Noting that for people everywhere "Bethlehem is associated with this joyful message of rebirth, renewal, light and freedom," Benedict XVI pointed out that in today's reality that doesn't seem to be the case.

In the midst of this tumultuous situation, Christians are called to live virtuous lives filled with hope, the Pope said.

This involves "first, the constant conversion to Christ which is reflected not only in our actions but also in our reasoning: the courage to abandon fruitless and sterile ways of thinking, acting and reacting. Then, the cultivation of a mindset of peace based on justice, on respect for the rights and duties of all, and commitment to cooperation for the common good. And also perseverance, perseverance in good and in the rejection of evil."

Pope Benedict said that he wants to leave the people of Bethlehem with a message: "Do not be afraid!"

In their efforts to be a "bridge of dialogue" and to build a "culture of peace," the Holy Father assured them of the Church's support.

He advised the Palestinians to "build up your local Churches, making them workshops of dialogue, tolerance and hope, as well as solidarity and practical charity. Above all, be witnesses to the power of life, the new life brought by the Risen Christ, the life that can illumine and transform even the darkest and most hopeless of human situations."

Real renewal goes beyond creating new economic and community structures, the Pope stressed, saying that what is needed most is "a new 'spiritual' infrastructure, capable of galvanizing the energies of all men and women of good will in the service of education, development and the promotion of the common good."

"You have the human resources to build the culture of peace and mutual respect which will guarantee a better future for your children. This noble enterprise awaits you. Do not be afraid!

"In this way," he assured, "Bethlehem will continue to echo the message entrusted to the shepherds, to us, and to all mankind

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Catholics in Costa Rica collecting signatures against gay ‘marriage’

San José, Costa Rica, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - Last Sunday at various parishes in the capital of Costa Rica, volunteers began collecting signatures demanding that a referendum be held in the country on the issue of gay unions.


Archbishop Hugo Barrantes of San Jose told the newspaper Prensa Libre that the campaign is an initiative by the faithful who “defend life, the principles of the Church and marriage.”


The campaign, he said, seeks to convince Costa Ricans to vote against “gay marriage, if lawmakers don’t realize that this is pernicious and perverse for society.”


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Holy Father prays for refugees in Bethlehem, encourages reconciliation for peace

Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday afternoon, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, home to Muslims and Christians. The Pope expressed his solidarity with "all the homeless Palestinians who long to be able to return to their birthplace, or to live permanently in a homeland of their own."

At the all-girls’ school inside the refugee camp, he began by thanking U.N. Relief and Works Agency officials for caring for the refugees. He extended a greeting to the teachers and pupils of the school.

"By your commitment to education you are expressing hope in the future," the Holy Father remarked. "Parents have a most important role here, and to all the families present in this camp I say: be sure to support your children in their studies and to nurture their gifts, so that there will be no shortage of well-qualified personnel to occupy leadership positions in the Palestinian community in the future.

"I know that many of your families are divided, through imprisonment of family members, or restrictions on freedom of movement, and many of you have experienced bereavement in the course of the hostilities," he continued. "Please be assured that all Palestinian refugees across the world, especially those who lost homes and loved ones during the recent conflict in Gaza, are constantly remembered in my prayers."

The Pontiff recognized the work carried out by Church agencies in caring for refugees in the Palestinian Territories. He mentioned the work of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, founded some sixty years ago to coordinate Catholic humanitarian assistance for refugees, and the "enormous contribution" made by different members of the Franciscan, making themselves "instruments of peace," in the time-honored phrase attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi.

"How much the people of this camp, these Territories, and this entire region long for peace!" Pope Benedict said. "In these days, that longing takes on a particular poignancy as you recall the events of May 1948 and the years of conflict, as yet unresolved, that followed from those events."

"You are now living in precarious and difficult conditions, with limited opportunities for employment," he added. "It is understandable that you often feel frustrated."

"Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached, the wall," Benedict XVI remarked. "In a world where more and more borders are being opened up, to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges, it is tragic to see walls still being erected."

The Pope reminded those present that great courage is needed if fear and mistrust is to be overcome, if the urge to retaliate for loss or injury is to be resisted. "It takes magnanimity to seek reconciliation after years of fighting," he explained. "Yet history has shown that peace can only come when the parties to a conflict are willing to move beyond their grievances and work together towards common goals, each taking seriously the concerns and fears of the other, striving to build an atmosphere of trust."

"Humanitarian aid, of the kind provided in this camp, has an essential role to play, but the long-term solution to a conflict such as this can only be political," he continued. "I am reminded of those other beautiful words attributed to Saint Francis: "where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon … where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy."

Pope Benedict concluded by renewing his plea for a commitment to cultivate peace and non-violence, "following the example of Saint Francis and other great peacemakers." "Peace has to begin in the home, in the family, in the heart," he expounded. "May peace flourish once more in these lands!"

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Vatican analyst underscores ‘surprising originality’ of Pope in Holy Land

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - In his latest column, Italian Vatican analyst Sandro Magister underscores the “double surprise” that Pope Benedict XVI caused on the first day of his trip to Israel by explaining two important issues: the conditions for peace and security, and the issue of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.


In his column entitled, “The Pope in Israel. Day One, Two Surprises,” Magister points out that:  “As soon as he landed in Israel on Monday, Benedict XVI immediately took up the most controversial questions: first peace and security, then the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.”


“On both fronts,” Magister says, “the ambush was set. He was subjected to constant pressure, not all of it above-board. For many of his critics, the script was already written, and they were simply waiting to judge whether and how the pope would stick to it.” However, “Benedict XVI acted with surprising originality, in both cases.”


"The advent of peace -continues- has been tied by him indisolubly to the 'Search for God' that has been the dominant theme of his memorable speech of Paris to the cultural world, one of the main speeches of his pontificate.


The Pope “asserted the unbreakable bond between the advent of peace” has been tied to the “Search for God.”  This was “one of the dominant themes in his memorable speech to cultural figures in Paris, one of the main speeches of his pontificate.  He developed the theme of security – which is crucial for Israel – on the basis of the biblical word ‘betah,’ which means security, but also trust: and the one cannot stand without the other.”


Likewise, Magister adds, “On his visit to Yad Vashem – the memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, where their names are inscribed by the millions – the pope illustrated the meaning of another biblical word: the ‘name’.”


The Pope explained that “the names of all ‘are indelibly inscribed in the memory of Almighty God.’ And therefore ‘one can never take away the name of another human being,’ not even when one intends to take away everything he has,” Magister writes.


“The cry of the slain rises from the ground as in the time of Abel, against any spilling of innocent blood, and God hears all of their cries, because ‘his mercies are not spent.’ The pope wrote these last words, taken from the book of Lamentations, in the guest book that he signed,” the Vatican analyst says.


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Benedict XVI pleas for an end to intolerance and exclusion

Bethlehem, West Bank, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - As the Holy Father left the Palestinian Territories today, he thanked the faithful for their hospitality and encouraged "openness and generosity" and asked for an end to "intolerance and exclusion."

In his address, Pope Benedict thanked the President for his kindness and noted that it was "deeply moving" for him to learn about the conditions of those living on the West Bank and in Gaza.

He noted that while "walls can easily be built," they "can be taken down." However, he continued, first "it is necessary to remove the walls that we build around our hearts, the barriers that we set up against our neighbors. That is why, in my parting words, I want to make a renewed plea for openness and generosity of spirit, for an end to intolerance and exclusion."

"No matter how intractable and deeply entrenched a conflict may appear to be, there are always grounds to hope that it can be resolved, that the patient and persevering efforts of those who work for peace and reconciliation will bear fruit in the end," he said.

The Pontiff reassured the crowd that he will encourage those involved in peace negotiations "to work towards a just solution that respects the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

He also announced that the Vatican will be establishing the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission along with the Palestinian Authority.

The Holy Father thanked the crowd and asked that "God look down in love upon each one of you, upon your families and all who are dear to you. And may he bless the Palestinian people with peace."


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Pastors cannot negotiate with the ‘world,’ says Argentinean cardinal

Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, encouraged members of the Bishops’ Conference this week to serve the people as pastors, but to avoid falling into the temptation of the “prudence” of the world, “a prudence born of the surrender to riches, vanity and pride.”


During his homily at the opening Mass of the Argentinean Bishops’ Plenary Assembly, Cardinal Bergoglio called on the bishops to accept and fully receive the Holy Spirit in their hearts, in order to “allow ourselves to be introduced by Him into the Mystery, and to be sent by Him as witnesses, so that we may not be a Gnostic or a self-referential Church.”


He went on to note that the presence of the Holy Spirit “in our hearts dissipates the darkness of lies and the clouds of these pseudo-truths, these half-truths,” which are expressions of worldliness, where the Holy Spirit cannot enter.


“If this spiritual worldliness were to invade the Church and work to corrupt it, attacking her in her very beginnings, it would be infinitely more disastrous than any mere moral worldliness.


“Spiritual worldliness is nothing other than an anthropocentric attitude, a subtle humanism that is enemy of the living God—and, in secret, no less an enemy of man—which can take root in us through a thousand ways.”


“When a priest negotiates with this attitude, he ceases to be a pastor of the people and becomes a cleric of the state, an official,” the cardinal explained.


The Holy Spirit rescues us from this “spirit of the world,” he concluded.


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African bishops show support for Pope Benedict’s condom comments

Nairobi, Kenya, May 13, 2009 (CNA) - African bishops are throwing their support behind Benedict XVI regarding his March comments on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS.


Benedict XVI’s comments on condoms were made on his flight to Africa in March as part of his explanation of the Church’s two prong approach to fighting AIDS. At one point in his response the Pontiff stressed that AIDS cannot be overcome by advertising slogans and distributing condoms and argued that they “worsen the problem.” The media responded with an avalanche of over 4,000 articles on the subject, calling Benedict a “threat to public health,” and saying that the Catholic Church should “enter the 21st century.”


According to, President of Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa (SECAM) Cardinal Polycarp Pengo explained that the Pope’s shouldn’t have come as a surprise.


"He was only reaffirming the Church's position with regards to the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS,” said the cardinal of Pope Benedict.  “His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence, not condoms, was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease."


Cardinal Pengo went on to explain that the best way to fight HIV is “a responsible and moral attitude toward sex," such as “fidelity in marriage, chastity and abstinence from premarital sex as key weapons in the fight against AIDS," reported


The cardinal also expressed disappointment that many of the Pope’s messages faded into the background behind the condom controversy, but was confident that those who wanted to learn from the Holy Father’s words would be able to do so.


"It is regrettable that his courageous statements have been misinterpreted as out of touch with modern day realities,” however we “are deeply grateful to him for his pastoral visit to our beloved continent as well as his messages to us and all the people of the continent. His visit has enkindled our hope in Christ and we are energized for more commitment to our Christian faith. We assure him of our solidarity and support," Cardinal Pengo concluded.


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Father Jenkins praises graduating seniors’ response to Obama controversy

South Bend, Ind., May 13, 2009 (CNA) -

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins has written to the Graduating Class of 2009, praising their conduct over recent weeks in the debate over the school’s commencement invitation to President Obama. Defending the university’s commitment to the sanctity of life, he argued President Obama’s invitation would help cultural engagement.

Fr. Jenkins, noting that he took office at the same time the upcoming graduates arrived at Notre Dame, said he felt a "special kinship" with them.

"During your years here we have endeavored to train you in the various disciplines and urged you to ask the larger questions – discussing not only the technical and practical but also the ethical and spiritual dimensions of pressing issues. I have been proud of you as you’ve grappled with intellectual, political, and spiritual questions. But I have never been more proud than I have been watching the way you’ve conducted yourselves over the past several weeks."

Acknowledging that the invitation of President Obama has triggered debate, he said in some cases the dispute has grown "heated" even among those who "agree completely" on Church teaching about the sanctity of human life.

"You have discussed this issue with each other while being observed, interviewed, and evaluated by people who are interested in this story. You engaged each other with passion, intelligence and respect. And I saw no sign that your differences led to division.

"You inspire me. We need the wider society to be more like you; it is good that we are sending you into that world on Sunday."

Fr. Jenkins said he was "saddened" that friends of the university have suggested the invitation to Obama indicates ambiguity about the school’s devotion to Catholic teaching.

"The University and I are unequivocally committed to the sanctity of human life and to its protection from conception to natural death," he said.

Fr. Jenkins said the university has a "long custom" of conferring honorary degrees on the sitting U.S. president.

However, he did not mention that the university did not invite President Bill Clinton, who like President Obama was a supporter of permissive abortion laws.

The honorary degree "has never been a political statement or an endorsement of policy," Fr. Jenkins continued. "It is the University’s expression of respect for the leader of the nation and the Office of the President."

He alluded to I Peter 2:17’s admonition to honor the leader of the secular order. He said Catholic university has "a special obligation" to "engage the culture."

"The President’s visit to Notre Dame can help lead to broader engagement on issues of importance to the country and of deep significance to Catholics," Fr. Jenkins continued. "Ultimately, I hope that the conversations and the good will that come from this day will contribute to closer relations between Catholics and public officials who make decisions on matters of human life and human dignity."

There was "much to admire and celebrate" in the work of President Obama, Fr. Jenkins said, listing his policies on immigration, health care, poverty, and foreign policy.

"As the first African-American holder of this office, he has accelerated our country’s progress in overcoming the painful legacy of slavery and segregation. He is a remarkable figure in American history, and I look forward to welcoming him to Notre Dame."

Fr. Jenkins’ letter closed by reminding graduates that commencement is "your day."

"My fervent prayer is that May 17 will be a joyous day for you and your family. You are the ones we celebrate and applaud. Congratulations, and may God bless you," he said.

Seeking comment, CNA contacted ND Response, a student group coalition opposed to President Obama’s invitation to the school, but did not receive a response by press time.

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N. American Martyrs advance in Clericus Cup soccer tournament

Rome, Italy, May 13, 2009 (CNA) -

Athletes representing the Pontifical North American College are one step closer to the 2009 Clericus Cup in a soccer tournament that pits teams of priests and students from various Roman seminaries against each other.

By a 4-3 victory on Wednesday the North American Martyrs defeated a mostly Brazilian squad of seminarians and priests from the Collegio Brasiliano e Orionino, Voice of America reports.

The priests and seminarians played on a field in Vatican City not far from St. Peter’s Basilica. They closed the game with a prayer.

The game was part of the Clericus Cup tournament, which takes inspiration from Pope John Paul II, a former goalie. The late Pope’s sports foundation, Italian sports authorities and the Vatican organize the annual tournament.

Explaining the North American team’s name of the Martyrs, one seminarian said: "Even when we lose, we win."

The team’s fight song ends with the cheer "N-A-C! Go Martyrs!"

Before Wednesday’s game, Victor Ingalls, a seminarian from Alabama, told Voice of America that Pope John Paul II encouraged priests to be as physically active as other men.

"John Paul II said, 'You know, the spiritual life is obviously important, but everything builds upon just the human being.' Like we're all human beings," he points out, "just like everyone else. We're just guys and just trying to do the Lord's will."

Charlie Gallagher, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of Washington who plays forward for the Martyrs, said the players hope to carry onto the field their off-field virtues and temperament.

"To keep peace of mind and charity of course," he said. "We still all play really hard. And we want to win with equal determination."

At times the games can become too heated. Last year an African priest earned a red card by throwing his shirt at the referee.

Fr. Dick Tomasek, the Martyrs’ spiritual director, told Voice of America that the game has many benefits for the young men, who spend hours studying and in silent prayer.

"I think they get a feeling of their wholeness. Body, mind and soul," he said. "The mind and soul are exercised all the time in their life, but the body is not. This gives them a sense of their wholeness, of their manhood."

He added that it would be desirable for the seminarians to return to their home parishes and start sports teams, reviving a neglected tradition.

Fr. Tomasek said he had been influenced as a student at his parish’s grade school in 1950s Iowa.

"We got this young priest who took off his black shirt and in his undershirt, played basketball with us during recess."

That was when the future Fr. Tomasek began to think he could be a priest.

"I saw a priest doing something, enjoying it, being good at it and playing with us."

The North American Martyrs will face the defending Clericus Cup champion team from Collegio Internazionale Maria Mater Ecclesiae on Saturday in the semi-finals, Voice of America reports.

During the regular season the Martyrs beat Mater Ecclesiae during a close game decided by a shoot-out.

The tournament finals will begin on May 23.

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