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Archive of June 18, 2009

Caritas encourages peace negotiations in North Korea, aid for the poor

Seoul, South Korea, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - Caritas International issued a press release this week saying that aid for the poor rather than military action is the solution to ending the crisis in North Korea.
 
At a recent meeting in China of Caritas Asia, the organization’s secretary general, Lesley-Anne Knight, said, “Armed intervention in response to the belligerence of North Korea will only cause greater human tragedies and more suffering for people here.”

“Genuine negotiations with concrete outcomes for improving the daily living conditions of the people are vital steps in reducing the suffering and engaging with North Korea to find a solution to this crisis” generated by recent nuclear tests carried out by the government, Knight said.
 
“The desperate situation many North Koreans find themselves needs addressing by the international community. A major part of the population is highly vulnerable, living in a precarious state where basic needs are not met. They should not be the victims of their government’s provocations,” she added.
 
In response to this situation, Caritas is prioritizing help for children, women and the elderly, who are the most affected. For years, the press release stated, Caritas has been helping the poorest in Korea and it will continue to do so especially in response to this crisis, in coordination with Caritas Korea.

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PBS national board bans new religious programming, including Mass for Shut-ins

Arlington, Va., Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - The members of PBS’ national board have voted to ban any new religious programming from their affiliate stations, citing both concerns about “public trust” and a 25-year-old rule that has never been rigorously enforced. Anticipation of the vote already resulted in one station cancelling its Mass for Shut-Ins.

The 1985 rule in question requires PBS affiliates to air only non-commercial, non-partisan and non-sectarian content.

Reportedly six affiliates broadcast “sectarian” programs produced by local religious groups, such as the Mass for Shut-Ins. These affiliates may retain their current shows and air programs and documentaries that cover sacred or newsworthy topics, Fox News says.

However, no new religious shows can be offered, and the 350 other stations may not air any purely spiritual content.

PBS affiliate WHUT in Washington, D.C. had already decided to end its 13 year tradition of broadcasting a weekly Mass to avoid violating membership rules.

“This is community-based, locally produced programming that fills a community need,” Susan Gibbs, director of Communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, told Fox News.

The Archdiocese of Washington has agreed to pay $60,000 to air its Mass for Shut-Ins on another network.

"PBS is respecting that there is a history of programming," Gibbs added. "It's unfortunate it's not going to continue for us."

Ron Yager, general manager of New Orleans affiliate WLAE, said the station was “very satisfied” that the shut-ins and the home-bound among its viewers can continue to view the daily Mass, which he said was “vital” to them.

KBDI president and CEO Wick Rowland described his station as “very eclectic” with a “huge diversity” of programming, which for a decade has included a weekly Mass.

“No one would mistake us for Catholic television station,” he told Fox News.

PBS affiliate KBYU in Utah is run by Brigham Young University and airs Mormon devotionals. Its managing director Derek Marquis said he was “pleased” by the decision, which he said would allow the station to provide both national PBS content and locally produced content “reflective of the values and mission” of the university.

Federal law does not bar showing religious services on public television. However, the PBS Station Services Committee voiced concerns the broadcast would create the appearance of an official endorsement and “would cause the public's trust in PBS to erode, along with the value of the brand.”

The PBS committee, composed of representatives of local networks, reviewed the network’s bylaws and authored the compromise.

CNA contacted the U.S. Conference for Catholic Bishops’ Communications Office for a reaction to the decision but did not receive a response by press time.

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Lawsuit filed to overturn decision barring D.C. same-sex ‘marriage’ referendum

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - A Washington, D.C. election board’s rejection of a voter referendum on its decision to recognize same-sex “marriages” contracted in other jurisdictions has been challenged in a lawsuit.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had ruled the referendum would violate the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977.

A lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) on behalf of Bishop Harry R. Jackson and other D.C. voters challenged the board’s ruling, noting that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals 15 years ago ruled that maintaining the recognition of marriage as between a man and a woman does not violate the act.

“Marriage didn’t violate the Human Rights Act when the HRA passed 32 years ago, and it doesn’t now. That is simply a political argument meant to prevent the people from voting,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum said in a statement. 

“If the referendum violates the HRA, then the marriage statutes that have been on the books since D.C. was formed also violate the HRA, and that is absurd,” Raum stated.

“Marriage pre-existed the Human Rights Act by centuries in the district. They have co-existed for a generation without conflict,” he continued. “The HRA has never required the redefinition of marriage or the recognition of non-marriages. Opponents of the referendum have twisted a law to impose their agenda without the people’s consent.”

Bishop Harry Jackson and other D.C. voters filed a May 27 request to hold a citywide referendum to give voters the opportunity to vote on the city council’s 12-1 decision of May 5 to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other jurisdictions.

The lawsuit argues that blocking the referendum would block the right of people to self-governance.

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Planned Parenthood seeks to secure state funding amid California budget woes

Sacramento, Calif., Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - California’s budget crisis has prompted Planned Parenthood affiliates to fight proposed rollbacks in state programs which fund the organization. The organization has praised a budget committee for rejecting the proposed cuts and is trying to rally further opposition to budget changes through a publicity campaign.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed to roll back a rate increase for the Family PACT program, the California Catholic Daily reports. It provides free “family planning” services to qualified recipients under the state’s Medi-Cal system. Though it does not pay for surgical abortions, it provides the “morning after pill,” a drug some believe to have abortifacient properties.

The governor, announcing the proposed cuts, noted that Health and Human Services is the second-largest part of California’s general fund.

His proposal would have saved $36.8 million by reducing reimbursement rates paid to agencies like Planned Parenthood that provide services under the program. It is reportedly a major source for Planned Parenthood’s annual revenues.

Planned Parenthood affiliates claimed a preliminary victory in the state legislature. An e-mail to its supporters announced that the Budget Conference Committee had rejected the governor’s proposed cuts to Family PACT, telling its readers “We could never have passed this hurdle without your help -- it was a huge step in the right direction, but we’re not done yet!”

The rate increases for the program were instated in a 2007 bill advocated by Planned Parenthood in another large publicity campaign. They took effect in 2008, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, which operates 34 clinics and 35 “satellite sites” in California and Northern Nevada, received 54 percent of its $55.5 million 2005 income from the Family PACT Program. In 2006, 55 percent of its $58.2 million income came from the program.

Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley is one affiliate encouraging its supporters to lobby the legislature.

“The budget is still not final, so we can’t let the pressure up now,” it said.

If the Budget Conference Committee’s proposed budget is approved by a two-thirds vote in the California Assembly and Senate, Gov. Schwarzenegger could still use his line-item veto to remove the Family PACT rate increases.

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President of Malta visits with Pope

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI received the President of Malta, his wife and a delegation on Thursday morning at the Vatican. In discussions with the Vatican's Secretary of State, the president of the Catholic country spoke about certain trends in Maltese society and the ongoing issues in the Middle East.

President George Abela touched on several topics with the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, including the role of the Catholic Church in Maltese society.

“Consideration was also given to the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East and Africa, and to the positive contribution Malta can make to resolving the problems there," a press release from the Vatican said.

Later in the evening, the president and his wife will attend an official dinner hosted by Fra’ Matthew Festing, Grandmaster and Prince of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

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Priests worldwide receive papal letter on eve of Year for Priests

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - In preparation for the Year of Priests, Pope Benedict XVI has sent a Letter to the priests of the world, calling on them to live out the words of St. John Vianney, “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

The Holy Father will inaugurate the Year of Priests during Vespers at St. Peter's Basilica tomorrow, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The celebratory year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of priests worldwide, and is intended to “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world.”

In his letter, the Holy Father praised “the courageous fidelity of so many priests who, even amid difficulties and incomprehension, remain faithful to their vocation.”  Speaking of he great role of the priesthood, he recalled the words of St. John Vianney, “O, how great is the priest!...If he realized what he is, he would die.”

The Pope pointed to the example of St. John Vianney, who “devoted himself completely to his parish's conversion” by living a holy and dedicated life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

“St. John Mary Vianney taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life,” said the Holy Father, inviting priests around the world to follow St. Vianney’s example of offering himself as a sacrifice.  “It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth.”

He continued to speak of the priest’s essential role in bringing the gift of Christ to the faithful through the sacraments and emphasized the importance of the priest harmonizing his life with that of Christ.

Highlighting the importance of the Sacrament of Penance, Pope Benedict said, “Priests ought never to be resigned to empty confessionals or the apparent indifference of the faithful to this Sacrament.”

The Pope encouraged priests to follow in St. Vianney’s footsteps by engaging in mortification for souls and remaining strong in the midst of suffering, saying, “Souls have been won at the price of Jesus' own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the ‘precious cost’ of redemption.”

The Holy Father concluded his letter by entrusting the coming Year of Priests to the Virgin Mary and encouraging priests to demonstrate “unity with their bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary.”

To read the entire letter from Pope Benedict to priests, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=943

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Brazilian bishops condemn murder of priest dedicated to youth ministry

Brasilia, Brazil, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the murder of their National Advisor for Youth Ministry, Father Gisley Azevedo Gomex, who died June 15. The bishops lamented that he was “a victim of the violence he desired to combat.”

In a brief statement, the bishops expressed their consternation over the incident and their hope that an investigation would bring those responsible to justice.

The Fides news agency reported that bishops are urging that “society mobilize to end the violence that so prematurely ends lives.” The 31 year-old priest, they said, became “a victim of the violence he desired to combat.”

The bishops’ youth ministry office remembered Father Gisley for his devotion to young people and for his “brave words in defense of the life, and above all, for his commitment to justice and peace.”

The priest was found dead on June 16 outside the city of Brasilia. He was a member of the Congregation of the Holy Stigmata of the Our Lord Jesus Christ and was ordained in May of 2005.

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Cardinal Tauran calls on politicians to scrutinize society's morals

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - In a speech to religious leaders from around the world gathered in Rome ahead of the G8 Summit, the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, called on the more than 100 participants to open their “spirits and hearts to the search for the common good.”

Asked about the purpose of the meeting, the cardinal said it was not intended to propose solutions to the political leaders who will meet for the G8 Summit on issues such as water usage or food safety. Instead, Cardinal Tauran explained that the religious leaders came together because “as believers and despite their diversity, [we] desire to speak with one voice and offer a unique reflection on the challenges of today’s world.”

The world today is “constantly threatened by the violation of certain fundamental rights of the human person, the unbalance between rich and poor, illnesses, unresolved conflicts, the arms trade and corruption among the elite,” Cardinal Tauran added.

He went on to invite politicians to “an examination of conscience to reflect on what we have built and to clearly recognize our frailties.”  “We also have the duty to call for vigilance and for a new lifestyle that demands a certain sobriety,” he said.

After encouraging the appropriate use of natural resources, Cardinal Tauran reaffirmed that “amidst the difficulties of the present moment, the Catholic Church has opted for hope and faith. But only together, as Christians and the faithful of other religions, can we help those who have the heavy responsibility of leading society, to discern to what degree their decisions are humane.”

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Exaltation of youth has led to lack of appreciation of the elderly, Chilean bishop warns

Santiago, Chile, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, has said the stereotyped image of the elderly must be changed for one that is more realistic, and that the value of older adults amidst a society that exalts youth must be recovered.

“Beginning with the modern era, youthfulness began to be exalted, a certain form of beauty and of efficacious productivity, provoking a change in the way people look at being old, and in many cases, leading to a form of psychological abuse: the devaluing, marginalization and at times even scorn for the elderly,” the bishop said during a seminar for World Elder Abuse Awareness day.

During his speech, Bishop Goic denounced the cultural beliefs that “facilitate the mistreatment and abuse of the elderly,” such as the idea that being successful means earning money and prestige. “A society made for mass consumption, centered on business profits, leaves out those who are not active consumers,” the bishop said.

Likewise, he warned that a society “in which violence occupies a central place in interpersonal relationships,” ends up marginalizing the weak: the elderly, women and children.

Bishop Goic emphasized that old age is a natural part of life and is the fruit of the experiences each person, a result of the decisions and steps taken throughout the years.

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U.S. bishops call on Obama for immigration reform to end migrants’ suffering

San Antonio, Texas, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), speaking at the conference’s annual spring meeting, called on President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to enact “comprehensive” immigration reform.

“It has been clear for years that the United States immigration system requires repair and that reform legislation should not be delayed,” Cardinal George said, speaking on behalf of the bishops.

Stating that the bishops urge “respect and observance of all just laws,” he added that they do not “approve or encourage” illegal entry into the United States.

“From a humanitarian perspective,” he said, “our fellow human beings, who migrate to support their families, continue to suffer at the hands of immigration policies that separate them from family members and drive them into remote parts of the American desert, sometimes to their deaths. This suffering should not continue.”

Cardinal George said society should stop tolerating a status quo that perpetuates a “permanent underclass” and benefits from its members’ labor “without offering them legal protections.”

“As a moral matter, we must resolve the legal status of those who are here without proper documentation so that they can fully contribute their talents to our nation’s economic, social and spiritual well being.

“Only through comprehensive reform can we restore the rule of law to our nation’s immigration system.”

He encouraged the U.S. president and congressional leaders to draft comprehensive immigration reform legislation with the goal of enacting it by the end of 2009.

“The Catholic bishops of our country stand ready to assist in this effort,” he pledged.

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U.S. Bishops approve Mass to celebrate gift of life

San Antonio, Texas, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic Bishops voted today at their annual Spring meeting to approve a text for thanking God for the gift of human life.

The idea to have a Mass that celebrates the gift of life was first proposed by Cardinal John O'Connor almost 20 years ago. The text was drafted in 1992 and sent to the Vatican for approval, but a conclusive reply was never received.

The consensus for having such a text was revealed by today's vote on the “Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life”—183 bishops voted to approve it, 3 voted no and 3 abstained.

The bishops then voted to adopt with 179 bishops voting yes, 1 voting no and 1 abstaining.

Also approved was the Spanish-language Lectionary, or Leccionario, by a vote of 182 to 1. Approval on all liturgical items required two-thirds of the Latin bishops, or 163 votes, a press release from the USCCB says.

Due to the absence of some bishops, votes on approving certain sections of the new English translation of the Roman Missal were inconclusive. The final votes will be determined via mail ballots.

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Catholic Charities of Dallas prepares to receive 200 Burundi refugees

Dallas, Texas, Jun 18, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic Charities of Dallas’ Refugee and Resettlement Services is expected to receive over 200 refugees this summer, mostly Burundians who have been living in Tanzania. Many Dallas-area Catholics have helped prepare for their arrival by assembling furniture for the refugees’ new homes.

The refugees fled Burundi in 1972 to escape widespread massacres largely perpetrated by the ethnic Tutsi-dominated government against the Hutu majority. As many as 250,000 people were killed, with about 150,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.

Most of these refugees have spent almost all their lives in exile, and some were even born in exile. According to Catholic Charities of Dallas, they were not able to integrate locally and are either unable or unwilling to return home.

Their land has long been confiscated and would be almost impossible to recover.

Dallas-area Catholics prepared for the refugees by assembling Ikea dining-room sets at St. Bernard of Clairvaux school.

The furniture was donated as part of Mission Possible, a 15-year-old organization which holds a weeklong program that sends more than 1,500 children to volunteer opportunities.

Mission Possible was formed to give children the opportunity to put into practice the social teachings of the Catholic faith, Diocese of Dallas vicar general Fr. Doug Deshotel told the Dallas Morning News.

Several volunteers described their work.

"It just really opens our eyes up to the problems going on – not just here, but all over the world," said Sara Elizabeth, a youth leader at St. Bernard who helped organize the gym-floor assembly line.

One student admitted that her mother made her volunteer, while student Hannah Reifsnyder told the Dallas Morning News she needed the service hours for her Communion.

“But I didn't know it would be this much fun,” she added.

Catholic Charities of Dallas normally acquires secondhand pieces of “varying quality” for the refugees.

Mike Auman, resettlement director for Catholic Charities, said these furniture sets were “sturdy.”

"I've had less-nice things than these as a young married person. It really gives people a feeling of home."

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