Archive of May 15, 2009

High school cross country clinic to assist runners physically and spiritually

St. Malo, Colo., May 15, 2009 (CNA) - St. Malo Retreat Center near Estes Park, Colorado will host a five-day clinic next month which will challenge high school runners athletically as well as spiritually.  


St. Malo Catholic Retreat Center, based at the foot of Mount Meeker (a 13,900 ft. mountain), will host the first annual clinic June 7 -11.  The retreat will include rising each morning for a brisk 20 minute trail run followed by Mass in a historic stone chapel. Athletes will participate in team challenges and listen to technical talks given by elite runners such as Ashley Anderson from Denver who is currently training for the 2010 Olympic Trials in the Women’s Marathon.


Each evening, the runners will gather around a campfire to discuss scripture passages relating to their experiences from the day.


St. Malo Marketing Manager Wendy Sun Hohn told CNA that the clinic will be based on the teachings of the Catholic Church and use “running as an analogy of our faith journey.”


She continued: “Our life is similar to a marathon; there will be ups and downs, challenges and great joys as we develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. There will be times of great comfort and strength and times of weakness and frustration; we may want to give up, however, as St. Irenaeus put it so well, ‘In the race of life, run so as to win’.”


Registration ends June 1.  For more information, email Sandy Harem at [email protected]




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Chilean government rejects foreign pressure to legalize abortion

Santiago, Chile, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - A high-level official of the Chilean government told journalists this week that the country would not bow to pressure from a report by the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights that suggests Chile should legalize abortion.

"There are some suggestions that the government of Chile will not accept because they have to do with issues that are not on the government’s agenda. In general, I think that the dialogue between Chile and the international community was a very constructive and positive one," said Jose Antonio Viera-Gallo.

"There is not country in the world that is perfectly in line with everything related to Human Rights," he argued. "It’s only natural to make suggestions to other countries, but the important thing is that they be in keeping with the direction that government is taking on issues related to indigenous peoples, the rights of women, against discrimination, and on the correct use of force by public safety."

The suggestion to legalize abortion was made to Chile last week at the U.N. Council on Human Rights in Geneva.

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President of Israel says ‘Pope’s entire message is positive’

Rome, Italy, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - Commenting on the Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, said on Wednesday: "The entire message of the Pope is positive and could spark important reflection."

In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Peres said, in order to "have a clear idea of the message left by Benedict XVI," it is "necessary to combine his discourse at the airport" in which he deplored anti-Semitism and encouraged Christians to promote peace, with "the one at Yad Vashem," in which he reiterated the commitment to the Church to denounce all hatred.

Peres told the Vatican newspaper that there was no one better than the Pope to express rejection for any religion that justifies violence. He said the Holy Father’s strongest message was "perhaps his arrival speech. More than once the Pope has spoken of the role of the three monotheistic religions in the building of a lasting peace."

Referring to the search for peace, Peres noted that a new trend is emerging in the Middle East. People are no longer "satisfied with bilateral agreements, but rather seek regional agreements for peace and peaceful coexistence with the understanding that modern democracy does not consist of the right to be equal, but in the equality of rights to be different; in which all prayers can reach heaven without interference or censure."

Speaking about the future of his country in the Middle East, the Israeli president also said, "Recourse to arms and to violence must end. We must tear down the walls."

"People need to be allowed to enter a new age of science and technology that is not in contradiction with the Scriptures," he continued.

"As believers it is possible to live in the age of science," Peres said. "There is no contrast, as the Pope himself has underscored. But above all we must open the borders to allow our children to live a future of peace."

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Catholic leaders call on Obama to remove ‘virulent anti-Catholic’ from advisory council

Washington D.C., May 15, 2009 (CNA) -

A group of twenty Catholic and conservative leaders have written a letter to President Barack Obama protesting the appointment to his faith-based advisory council of a man they say is "a virulent anti-Catholic bigot." The letter lamented the president’s "failure to act" and called on him to remove the appointee.

The letter concerned Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships appointee Harry Knox, who had described the Knights of Columbus as an "army of oppression" for supporting California’s Proposition 8.

Signatories to the letter included L. Brent Bozell III of the Media Research Center, American Life League President Judie Brown, Catholic League President Bill Donohue, Notre Dame Law Professor Emeritus Charles Rice, and conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly.

Noting President Obama’s claim that the Council would "bring everyone together – from both the secular and faith-based communities," the group’s letter voiced concerns about Knox.

The letter said Knox, a former licensed Methodist minister who is a leader with the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign (HRC), is "the hate-filled antithesis of this noble objective."

In the past, Knox had attacked Pope Benedict and some Catholic bishops as "discredited leaders" because of their opposition to same-sex "marriage."

Though saying the Knights of Columbus had done good works, he nevertheless characterized its members as "foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression" because of the Catholic charitable fraternity’s support for the successful California ballot measure Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 restored the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.

In their letter to President Obama, the group said they assumed President Obama and his Administration were previously unaware of Knox’s "deplorable, abusive attitude towards the Church and Pope Benedict XVI." Referring to recent press reports exposing what they said was Knox’s "loathsome and clearly bigoted rhetoric," the signatories said there was now no excuse for inaction.

"As Catholics, we call on you to remove Mr. Knox from his position and to formally disassociate yourself from his militant anti-Catholicism. Failure to do so will result in the tainting of your Faith-Based Council—and indeed, your entire administration—as anti-Catholic," the group said.

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Pro-Obama ‘political operators’ trying to divide Catholics, George Weigel claims

Denver, Colo., May 15, 2009 (CNA) -

Saying that Notre Dame is acting as if it is not a member of the local Church in its response to the controversy, Catholic commentator George Weigel has charged that "political operators" in the Obama administration are trying to divide Catholics from their bishops by co-opting Catholic intellectuals and their institutions.

In his May 13 column in the Denver Catholic Register, Weigel noted Boston College theology professor Fr. Kenneth Himes’ charge that there is a "political game" going on in the dispute over the University of Notre Dame’s commencement invitation to President Barack Obama.

Fr. Hines had commented in a Boston Globe story about former Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon’s decision to decline Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal.

He granted that some "well-meaning people" think Notre Dame has given away its Catholic identity. However, he also warned of a "political game" which results in demonizing those who disagree with you, questioning their integrity and character, and branding them as "moral poison."

"Some people have simply reduced Catholicism to the abortion issue, and consequently, they have simply launched a crusade to bar anything from Catholic institutions that smacks of any sort of open conversation," he said in the Boston Globe.

Responding to Fr. Himes, Weigel said if Fr. Hines was referring to the leading critics of President Obama’s Notre Dame honors, the priest was "perilously close" to committing calumny.

"Yes, there are self-serving nuts in the forest, some of whom have seized the Obama/Notre Dame issue for their own purposes," Weigel said. "But why does Father Himes waste time bashing fringe crazies? Why not engage the arguments of the serious critics?"

Weigel cited as one such critic Notre Dame graduate Prof. Russell Hittinger, a professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa.

Hittinger has said that Notre Dame has adopted a "purely American low-church" position of institutional autonomy by acting as if its local bishop is not worthy of attention.

The Obama controversy, Hittinger said, has nothing to do with academic freedom or ecclesiastical supervision but is "ecclesiological all the way down."

"What Church is Notre Dame ‘in,’ if any?" Hittinger asked. "Notre Dame is speaking and acting as though it were not a member of the local Church, let alone Rome."

Weigel said this comment was "exactly right," alleging that the actual "political game" is being played by "very smart political operators" in the Obama administration.

He charged that these operators, noting the presidential election results, have sensed the possibility of "driving a wedge through the Catholic community in America, dividing Catholics from their bishops and thus securing the majority Catholic vote."

Weigel said they are targeting Catholic intellectuals and their institutions and journals, which he described as "the soft underbelly" of Catholic resistance to the Obama administration’s "radical agenda."

"It’s a clever move on the political chessboard, and barring extraordinary actions from the bishops, it will likely meet with considerable success," Weigel continued.

He closed by again reiterating the question: "Just what Church are Notre Dame and its supporters ‘in,’ anyway?"

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Pope: Unity of Christians key to Jerusalem's vibrant future

Jerusalem, Israel, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday morning, after celebrating Mass in private, Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III. The Holy Father spoke with the patriarch of his gratitude for efforts to achieve greater unity between their Churches and asked the Christians of Jerusalem to raise a generation dedicated to the faith.

Pope Benedict began his speech to those assembled by calling to mind the past meetings between his two predecessors and the Orthodox patriarchs of their time.

“These encounters, including my visit today,” he said, “are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a 'rising sun' came to visit us and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.”

The setting of the meeting also touched the Holy Father, who said, “standing in this hallowed place, alongside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the site where our crucified Lord rose from the dead for all humanity, and near the cenacle, where on the day of Pentecost 'they were all together in one place,' who could not feel impelled to bring the fullness of goodwill, sound scholarship and spiritual desire to our ecumenical endeavors?”

The Pope prayed that the gathering “will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.”

On that note, the Pontiff recalled last October's Synod of Bishops, which studied the Word of God, and at which the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, made an intervention.

“The warm welcome he received and his moving intervention were sincere expressions of the deep spiritual joy that arises from the extent to which communion is already present between our Churches,” the Pope said as he expressed his hope that reconciliation between Christians would continue.

But the Holy Father also noted the division was most acutely experienced when Christians evangelize, since Christ's mission was one of bringing all men together.

“It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked these streets, through his words and actions calls people of every age to his life of truth and love.”

“It seems to me,” the Pope remarked, “that the greatest service the Christians of Jerusalem can offer their fellow citizens is the upbringing and education of a further generation of well-formed and committed Christians, earnest in their desire to contribute generously to the religious and civic life of this unique and holy city.”

Speaking in the context of dialogue between Christians, the Pope prayed that “the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and - for young people in particular - unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability.”

After meeting with Patriarch Theophilus III, Pope Benedict walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, next to the Patriarchate.

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Jesus is the peace the Holy Land longs for, Pope says

Jerusalem, Israel, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - Before he departs for Rome later this afternoon, Pope Benedict made sure to visit Christianity's holiest site—the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—where Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead. The Pope urged the people of the Holy Land to bury their sufferings in the empty tomb, since their “strife-torn land” can find the peace it yearns for in Jesus, the person who rose from it.

A delegation comprised of the numerous Christian traditions that care for the church accompanied Pope Benedict as he stopped at the place where Jesus was prepared for burial (Stone of the Unction) and the tomb in which Jesus was buried. As he paused at each place, he kissed the stone and then prayed for several minutes.

Upon leaving the Tomb of Christ, the Pope was welcomed by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, who gave thanks for Benedict XVI's visit. The patriarch noted that the congregation had just sung the “Te Deum”--a hymn of thanks to God—and that they sang it “first of all for your presence in our midst, during these days.”

“We sing this 'Te Deum' in joy, despite the complications of the situation today,” said Twal referencing the tensions in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Twal also noted the exhaustion the Pope endured to make the trip, and encouraged him, saying, “You guide Peter's boat with courage and joy, despite the personal attacks launched against you.” 

“The distance between the tomb and Golgotha, as you have seen Holy Father, is very short,” noted Twal. “In this sense, so too may this distance between the time of conflict and peace be short. Neither the conflict, nor the occupation, nor the culture of death, nor the emigration of Christians, will succeed in bringing us down or prevent us from proclaiming Christ is Risen! Resurrexit sicut dixit!”

Pope Benedict then thank the patriarch for his welcome and invoked the symbolism of the Successor of Peter visiting the place where St. Peter had discovered with St. John that Jesus had risen from the dead.

“I wish to proclaim anew, to the men and women of our time, the Church’s firm faith that Jesus Christ 'was crucified, died and was buried,' and that 'on the third day he rose from the dead.' Exalted at the right hand of the Father, he has sent us his Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Apart from him, whom God has made Lord and Christ, 'there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved,' the Pope proclaimed.

With the people of the Holy Land's frequent experience of the “dark mystery of Golgotha” in mind, Pope Benedict said that he wished to leave the message with them: “the empty tomb speaks to us of hope, the hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the Spirit of life.”

Noting that this visit concludes his pilgrimage, Pope Benedict prayed that “the Church in the Holy Land will always draw new strength from its contemplation of the empty tomb of the Savior. In that tomb it is called to bury all its anxieties and fears, in order to rise again each day and continue its journey through the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee and beyond, proclaiming the triumph of Christ’s forgiveness and the promise of new life.”

“As Christians,” he reminded, “we know that the peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name: Jesus Christ. 'He is our peace,' who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross, bringing an end to hostility. Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father’s hands.”

Benedict XVI concluded by inviting his brother bishops and the priests and religious in the Holy Land to “rekindle the enthusiasm of your consecration to Christ and your commitment to loving service of his mystical Body” and called on them to bring Christ's “healing presence and reconciling love” to all those who live in the Holy Land.

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'Break the vicious circle of violence,' Pope pleads before departing

Tel Aviv, Israel, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict made the strongest appeal for peace of his entire trip as he prepared to depart for Rome on Friday. During his farewell speech at the Ben Gurion International Airport, the Pope stressed the need for universal recognition of Israel's right to exist and the Palestinians' “right to a sovereign independent homeland.”

President Shimon Peres, who delivered a speech before the Pope, said the trip “constituted a significant contribution to the new relations between the Vatican and Jerusalem.”

“I hope that your visit enabled you and your delegation to experience the traits of our land... above all the sincere aspiration for peace shared by all Israelis—peace with our neighbors, peace with distant enemies, peace for all,” Peres said.

The Israeli president also added that “today's political and spiritual leaders face a profound challenge: how to divorce religion from terror. How to prevent terrorists from hijacking the religious conscience by cloaking an act of terrorism in the false guise of a religious mission.”

Peres argued that because of Pope Benedict's “great spiritual leadership” he can “help people to recognize that God is not in the hearts of terrorists.”

The Pope then took the podium and recalled that he and President Peres planted an olive tree at his house on the day he arrived in Israel. According to St. Paul, the Pope stated, the olive tree is a sign of “very close relations” between Christians and Jews.

He recounted how moving it was to meet Holocaust survivors at Yad Vashem, and said that the encounters reminded him of his visit to the “death camp Auschwitz” three years ago. There, many Jews were “brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred. That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied. On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love.”

Benedict XVI then said that he wanted to “put on record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people.”

However, Pope Benedict shared that the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians over the past six decades has brought him deep distress and that he believes no friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life.

The Holy Father pleaded with the Palestinians and Israelis, crying, “No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing.”

The way toward peace, asserted the Pope, is for it to be “universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders” and “likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely.”

“Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream. And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a 'light to the nations,' bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict,” Pope Benedict entreated.

The Pope went even further in lamenting the strife afflicting the region by decrying the Israeli-built security wall.

“One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall. As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression,” he said.

“Mr. President,” Benedict said, “I know how hard it will be to achieve that goal. I know how difficult is your task, and that of the Palestinian Authority. But I assure you that my prayers and the prayers of Catholics across the world are with you as you continue your efforts to build a just and lasting peace in this region.”

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CNA to report from Notre Dame campus

South Bend, Ind., May 15, 2009 (CNA) - This weekend, Catholic News Agency will be on Notre Dame campus providing exclusive coverage of protests and events relating to President Obama’s scheduled appearance at the school’s commencement ceremony this Sunday.

CNA’s weekend coverage from South Bend, Indiana will include breaking news demonstrations, events, NDResponse, students, graduates and protesters.

A photo gallery from the weekend will also be available on the site.


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Bishop Aquila addresses Obama and Notre Dame on Fox News

Fargo, N.D., May 15, 2009 (CNA) - Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, said on national television May 14 that the University of Notre Dame is “ignoring their Catholic identity” by giving an honorary degree to President Barack Obama. Obama will speak at the university’s commencement exercises May 17 and receive an honorary degree.


“Certainly Notre Dame is a wonderful Catholic institution. It is one that has a Catholic character and a Catholic identity,” Bishop Aquila said on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” on Fox News channel Thursday, May 14. Referring to President Obama’s views and actions related to abortion, Bishop Aquila said “to extend an honorary degree to someone who is opposed to a basic, fundamental right as the right and the dignity of human life, from the moment of conception until natural death, that sends a very mixed message and certainly is perceived by the average layperson as condoning or giving an appearance of supporting his ideas on human life and the unborn child.”


Bishop Aquila said graduates of Notre Dame from the Diocese of Fargo have contacted him with concerns about the university’s decision to honor Obama. He said bishops “serving as teachers, need to extend their teaching and help people to see. Because, certainly, NARAL or Planned Parenthood would never invite Benedict XVI, much less extend an award to him. And essentially, Notre Dame is ignoring their Catholic identity and who they are, their Catholic character, by giving an award to (President Obama).”


In an April 5 letter to Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, Bishop Aquila wrote that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama “diminishes the reputation of Notre Dame and makes one wonder what its mission truly is.”


Bishop Aquila wrote that President Obama, “clearly rejects the truth about human dignity through his constant support of a so called ‘right to abortion.’ He also tolerates the inexcusable act of letting aborted children die who are born alive. He promotes an intrinsic evil which must always be resisted by a just and civil society.”


The full text of the letter can be found here:


Printed with permission from the Diocese of Fargo.


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Majority of Americans now describes themselves as pro-life, Gallup Poll says

Princeton, N.J., May 15, 2009 (CNA) -

A new poll for the first time finds that a slight majority of Americans now call themselves "pro-life" regarding abortion. The poll also shows that a majority of Catholics once again consider themselves pro-life while the number of Americans who think abortion should be legal "under any circumstances" has declined.

The Gallup Poll conducted from May 7 to May 10 reported that 51 percent of Americans now call themselves "pro-life," while only 42 percent call themselves "pro-choice." Self-described pro-lifers had never made up a majority of survey respondents since Gallup started asking the question in 1995.

A year ago, 50 percent of Americans categorized themselves as pro-choice and only 44 percent categorized themselves as pro-life. The previous high for pro-life sentiment was in 2001 and 2002, when 46 percent self-identified as pro-life.

The results come from Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, which polled 1,015 national adults. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Gallup also asked respondents their views of abortion restrictions. About 53 percent said abortion should be legal "only under certain circumstances," 23 percent said the killing procedure should be illegal in all circumstances, and only 22 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances.

In 2008, 28 percent thought abortion should be legal under any circumstances while only 17 percent said it should always be illegal.

Of those 2009 survey respondents who thought abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, 37 percent said it should be legal "only in a few" circumstances while 15 percent said it should it be legal under "most" circumstances.

The latest survey shows that a majority of Catholics, 52 percent, again describe themselves as pro-life. Their numbers, as reported by Gallup, peaked in 2007 at 54 percent but declined to 45 percent in 2008.

Gallup speculated that the controversy over President Barack Obama’s invitation to Notre Dame may have strengthened pro-life sentiment among Catholics.

About 59 percent of Protestants and other Christians now describe themselves as pro-life, an increase of about eight points since 2008. Only 31 percent of those of other or no religious preference describe themselves as pro-life, though that figure represents a four percent increase over 2008.

The survey reports that about 49 percent of women and 54 percent of men now identify as pro-life.

Gallup reported that there was essentially no change on abortion among Democrats and those who lean Democratic. However, The number of Republicans and those leaning Republican showed 70 percent identify as pro-life, a ten percent increase since 2008, while 26 percent identify as pro-choice, a ten percent decrease.

It was not explained whether a decline in Republican self-identification could have affected the survey results. However, Gallup’s report showed increasing pro-life sentiment among both conservatives and moderates.

In its May 15 summary of the survey, Gallup said the rise of the pro-abortion rights President Obama may have pushed some people into the pro-life column.

"It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be ‘pro-choice’ slightly to the left, politically," Gallup said. "While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction."

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Leaders must nurture faith of families, work for unity, exhorts Holy Father

Vatican City, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - After celebrating Mass in private at the apostolic delegation in Jerusalem, at 9 a.m. today the Holy Father traveled to the city's Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, where he attended an ecumenical meeting.  Meeting with the Christian leaders he encouraged them to “redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father Who sends the Son so that the world may know His love for us."


In his address to representatives of Christian communities in the Holy Land, Benedict XVI expressed the hope that "our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives."


"Extending His arms on the Cross, Jesus revealed the fullness of His desire to draw all people to Himself, uniting them together as one," said the Holy Father. "In that breath, through the redemption that unites, stands our mission! Little wonder, then, that it is precisely in our burning desire to bring Christ to others, to make known His message of reconciliation, that we experience the shame of our division."


And yet, he went on, "empowered by the unifying force of the Holy Spirit ... we shall find the strength to redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father Who sends the Son so that the world may know His love for us."


"It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, Who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, Who walked these streets, through His words and actions calls people of every age to His life of truth and love," he continued.


"The fundamental priority of every Christian leader is the nurturing of the faith of the individuals and families entrusted to his pastoral care. This common pastoral concern will ensure that your regular meetings are marked by the wisdom and fraternal charity necessary to support one another and to engage with both the joys and the particular difficulties which mark the lives of your people."


Benedict XVI concluded his address by saying: "I pray that the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and - for young people in particular - unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability."


The meeting over, the Holy Father moved on to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.


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Benedict XVI visits Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate, expresses hope for Christian unity

Vatican City, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - This morning the Holy Father visited the Armenian Patriarchal Apostolic Church of Jerusalem, where he was greeted by Patriarch Torkom Manoukian. The Pope assured the Armenian Community of his prayers and spoke of the need for Christian unity.

There are 10,000 people of the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate who are present in the Palestinian Territories of Jordan and Israel.

"I count it a great blessing," said the Pope in his address, "to have met in this past year with the Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians Karekin II and with the Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I. Their visits to the Holy See, and the moments of prayer which we shared, have strengthened us in fellowship and confirmed our commitment to the sacred cause of promoting Christian unity."

The Holy Father also mentioned his appreciation for the commitment of the Armenian Apostolic Church "to the continuing theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This dialogue, sustained by prayer, has made progress in overcoming the burden of past misunderstandings, and offers much promise for the future."

He continued, "A particular sign of hope is the recent document on the nature and mission of the Church produced by the Mixed Commission and presented to the Churches for study and evaluation." In this context he expressed the hope that the work of the commission may "bear abundant fruit for the growth of Christian unity, and advance the spread of the Gospel among the men and women of our time."

Pope Benedict gave assurances of his prayers that the Armenian Community in Jerusalem "will constantly draw new life from its rich traditions, and be confirmed in its witness to Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection in this Holy City."

"I ask you in turn to pray with me that all the Christians of the Holy Land will work together with generosity and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel of our reconciliation in Christ, and the advent of His Kingdom of holiness, justice and peace," he concluded.


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Spanish bishops reaffirm that ‘abortion by pill is also a crime’

Madrid, Spain, May 15, 2009 (CNA) - In response to a decision by the government to allow access to the morning-after pill without a prescription, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference issued a statement Thursday affirming that “abortion by pill is also a crime.”


The Conference has also decided to reissue four documents it produced on the issue of abortion between 1998 and 2001, in response to “the surprising measures that allow the sale of drugs with possible adverse side-effects and eventual negative consequences for the health of the women and girls who use them.”


The four documents can be found in Spanish at the bishops’ website:


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Notre Dame seniors prepare for an ‘extraordinary’ commencement

South Bend, Ind., May 15, 2009 (CNA) - For most college seniors, the final weeks leading up to their commencement are filled with light-hearted fun, sentimental good-byes and the rush to finalize plans for the next chapter of their lives. The graduating seniors of the University of Notre Dame have experienced these and so much more as their college careers have drawn to a close. As one senior explained, “Things definitely have been much more different that I would ever have expected it to be.”

On March 20, 2009, the University of Notre Dame announced that President Barack H. Obama would be the principle speaker at the school’s 164th commencement ceremony and would receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree on the occasion. In the ensuing weeks, the school’s campus has become an epicenter of political, religious, and social debate and uproar. Though commencement lies at the core of the current controversy, those whom the commencement should celebrate—the graduates—have been largely overlooked in midst of the present storm. 

“Regardless of what the administration or anyone says, commencement ceased to be about the graduates the moment that [President Obama] was invited to speak,” said Emily Toates, a senior mechanical engineering major who does not support the University’s invitation to the President. “Whether he wants to be or not, and despite the fact that he is president, Mr. Obama is a controversial, divisive figure.”

For many, what makes President Obama a “controversial, divisive figure” are his views on life issues, namely abortion and embryonic stem cell research, and his legislative and political record of voting for pro-choice action items and voting against many pro-life ones.  Such actions are seen as being in direct opposition to the Catholic Church’s fundamental moral principles regarding the dignity of all human life.

“It is ironic that we are giving him a law degree,” senior political science major, Jeff Tisak commented, “seeing that he has used the law in ways that run diametrically counter to the mission of Notre Dame as well as that of the Church.”

Other students are in favor of the university’s invitation. These individuals believe President Obama shares much in common with other issues encompassed within Catholic social teaching, such as immigration, poverty, and torture. In view of this, as well as the fact that Mr. Obama is the first African-American President of the United States, there are many graduates who are excited and looking forward to President Obama’s commencement appearance.

Meghan Walsh, a senior English major who supports the invitation, said, “I think that Barack Obama is a wonderful person and I am honored to have him at my graduation and for him to have a diploma from the same college as I do.”

As graduation day draws nearer, the tension and anticipation of commencement activities noticeably grows stronger. In a recent letter to seniors, university president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., told the graduates that Commencement Day was a day to honor their undergraduate work and that the day’s focus will be kept on them and their accomplishments. Though most seniors do not expect there to be any disruption during the commencement ceremony itself, many do wonder what will be going on outside of commencement. As one anonymous senior said, “I understand that abortion is a big issue, but I just don’t want my graduation ruined.”

“My graduation will be memorable for many unusual and extraordinary reasons. I am not sure what I think of that yet.”

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Catholic protesters arrested at Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind., May 15, 2009 (CNA) - Arrests of those protesting President Barack Obama’s speech and honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony have continued today. One Southern Baptist pastor reported that he witnessed an elderly priest being dragged on the ground by security.

"I wept when I saw my friends arrested and taken to jail," the pastor said in a press release. "They almost broke the arm of a priest who appeared to be in his 80s, by dragging him on the ground."

The pastor, Vision America President Rick Scarborough explained that he participated in the protests to support Catholics in the fight for life.

"Millions of Catholics who were persecuted in their countries of origin came to these shores for religious freedom," Scarborough said. "These hard-working folk built institutions like Notre Dame to educate their children and strengthen their Church."

"Now Notre Dame is honoring Barack Obama, a man Catholics and other Christians should shun, as many of the Catholic bishops have."

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New Hampshire Gov.’s same-sex ‘marriage’ religious freedom plan applies only ‘in some instances’

Concord, N.H., May 15, 2009 (CNA) -

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on Thursday said he will sign a bill to recognize same-sex "marriages" contracted in the state if religious liberty protections are added to the bill. Backers of the proposal said they would make the requested changes, which would protect individuals and institutions only "in some instances."

Lynch, a Democrat, told reporters he personally opposes same-sex "marriage" but decided to view the issue "through a broader lens," the Associated Press reports.

"Throughout history, our society's views of civil rights have constantly evolved and expanded," Lynch said. "New Hampshire's great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections."

Gov. Lynch said he wanted religious liberty protections modeled on Connecticut. He said he wanted protections in cases such as an organist employed by a church opposed to same-sex "marriage" could legally refuse to perform at a homosexual "wedding."

If the bill is signed into law, New Hampshire would become the sixth U.S. state to give legal marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, thanked the governor for his "leadership" in providing a way for New Hampshire "to move forward to enact marriage equality and, at the same time, respect religious tolerance."

Mo Baxley, executive director of the pro-homosexual "marriage" group New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, said her group could support the language.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which says it does not take a position on same-sex "marriage," praised Gov. Lynch for "taking religious liberty seriously."

"Giving legal recognition to same-sex marriages promises to unleash a host of legal and financial penalties on those who conscientiously object to it, unless states make the effort to enact robust legal protections," Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director for the Becket Fund, said in a press release.

However, the Becket Fund acknowledged that Lynch’s proposal would not protect small business owners such as an Arizona photographer who faces a fine for refusing to photograph a same-sex ceremony. The protections reportedly will only cover the solemnization, celebration or promotion of same-sex "marriage."

The Becket Fund said the proposal would protect individuals and institutions "in some instances."

Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, characterized Lynch’s religious liberty proposal as a "smoke screen" providing cover for his change of opinion.

"There are people with very deeply held convictions on this issue who are now going to have their conscience violated," Smith told the Concord Monitor. He added that the proposed modification "seems like a rather disingenuous attempt on the part of the governor to try and couch his actions today and say it's some sort of compromise. It isn't."

"The folks who are not protected are your individual business owners, caterers, photographers, who now will be forced to provide these services for same-sex weddings," he also said, according to the Boston Globe.

The Associated Press reports that New Hampshire Republican Party Chairman John H. Sununu also criticized Lynch, saying: "Once again, Gov. Lynch has discovered a way to be against something and for it at the same time."

In a May 7 statement, Bishop of Manchester John B. McCormack opposed the proposal, saying "We believe that we should be doing all we can as a society to support and protect marriage, which is a union of a man and woman and has been throughout history."

He said the bill would "redefine marriage on the run" with the "slimmest of legislative margins." His comments, made before religious liberty protections were proposed, also emphasized the need to secure religious liberties. Bishop McCormack warned "unintended consequences" of the proposal would lead to "unnecessary confusion, litigation and denial of rights to many people in our state."


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