Manchester, United Kingdom, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - A Pagan group in Britain has accused a Catholic social club of religious discrimination for refusing to host a Pagan group’s Annual Witches’ Ball on the grounds it was ‘not compatible with the Catholic ethos.’
Sandra Davis, 61, a High Priestess of the Pagan group, initially had reserved Our Lady’s Social Club in Stockport, Manchester for her group’s Annual Witches Ball. When she called to make payment arrangements, she was told the event could not be held there and must find another venue.
She told the Daily Telegraph she was “appalled” and said her congregation was “shocked” that there can be such “religious discrimination.”
"We're normal people who follow an earth-based religion and want to enjoy ourselves.
"We thought we were bridging the gap with other religions but misconceptions still exist, like we sacrifice animals.
"Does the church check everyone's beliefs before allowing them in the club?” she asked.
Fr. John Joyce from the Diocese of Shrewsbury explained to the Daily Telegraph why the event could not proceed at the Catholic club.
"Parish centers under our auspices let their premises on the understanding users and their organizations are compatible with the ethos and teachings of the Catholic Church," he said.
"In this instance, we aren't satisfied such requirements are met."
The Christian Institute worries that Britain’s Equality Act of 2006 could provide a basis for possible legal action. The act forbids refusals to provide goods and services on the basis of religious belief. However, its relevance depends upon whether the Catholic social club is defined as a religious organization or as a commercial one.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Maximino Martinez Miranda of Ciudad Altamirano celebrated the funeral mass for a priest and two seminarians slain in the state of Guerrero on June13, calling of the faithful to pray for the conversion of their killers.
During his homily, the bishop underscored that “as the Catholic Church we firmly reject these acts that go against human life, the improvement of society and the work of evangelization of a priest who labored daily for the good of others.”
“We have no words to express our concern and sorrow for the killing of our beloved ‘Father Cuco,’ as we called him, a priest of our beloved Diocese of Ciudad Altamirano,” the bishop said.
Bishop Martinez went on to recall that Father Habacuc was a model of living out the beatitudes, and he called for “prayers for the eternal repose of Father Habacuc Hernandez Benitez and for those responsible for this murder, that the Lord would transform their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.”
After explaining that Father Habacuc was in charge of vocations for the diocese, Bishop Martinez recalled that he “stood out for his spirit of charity towards those in need, his pastoral commitment, intelligence, commitment to others and dedication to vocations.”
“May Father Habacuc and his two disciples, Eduardo and Silvestre, be counted among God’s saints and chosen ones, may they now enjoy His presence and may this incident serve to strengthen our faith,” the bishop prayed.
Westminster, England, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in England and Wales is beginning the celebration of the Year for Priests with a Mass at Westminster Cathedral and a call to pray for priests.
Pope Benedict XVI will officially launch the Year for Priests on Friday June 19 during Vespers at the St. Peter's Basilica. June 19 is the Feast of the Sacred Heart and the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, the “Cure of Ars,” who was a great saint known for his care for souls.
The Pope has also sent a letter to priests in which he praised the example of St. Jean Vianney. He also prayed to the Virgin Mary that every priest have a generous and renewed commitment to “complete self-oblation” to Christ and the Church.
Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols will celebrate a Mass on Friday evening at Westminster Cathedral to launch activities for the year.
According to a press release, Archbishop Nichols said the Year for Priests would be a year “to appreciate our priests, to treasure their dedication and pastoral work and a year during which we will pray for our priests; that God will bless and strengthen them.”
Following the Mass, the book “Priesthood: A Life Open to Christ” will be launched. The book is a compilation assembled by Canon Daniel Cronin, and contains 78 articles on the priesthood written by bishops and priests from around the world.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales has created a website for the Year of Priests at http://ukpriest.org
Dublin, Ireland, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - The Dublin-based priest group Worldpriests is marking the Year for Priests by organizing four Masses to be celebrated in four different time zones in different parts of the world.
The theme of the Year for Priests, announced by Pope Benedict XVI, is “Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests.”
The Masses will be celebrated on June 19 at 3 p.m. local time in Sydney, Australia; Kerala, India; Knock Shrine, Ireland and New York City, USA. The respective celebrants will be Cardinal George Pell, Fr. Sebastian Koodappatu OCD, Archbishop Michael Neary and Monsignor Michael Curran.
On June 21, Mass will be celebrated in the RTE National TV studios by Fr. Brendan Kilcoyne, present of St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam. Music will be provided by the Classicus Youth Chamber Choir.
The Mass will begin at 11:15 Dublin time and will be broadcast on www.worldpriestday.com.
The Dublin-based Worldpriest group has produced other resources for the Year for Priests including a new logo. It has also produced a “Catholic Identity Card” for Catholics’ wallets. The free card asks that a priest be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - On Friday morning, Pope Benedict XVI received the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church at the Vatican. The meeting served as an opportunity for the Holy Father to emphasize the unity of the Roman and Syriac traditions.
His Beatitude Ignace Youssif III Younan was elected as the new Catholic patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians just this past January by the Syriac Church's synod in Rome.
"Divine Providence," Pope Benedict remarked, "has made us ministers of Christ and shepherds of His one flock. ...
The Church led by the patriarch follows the traditions of the Eastern rite and is nourished by teachings of the Church Fathers St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ephrem, among others.
Recalling that “Christ Himself, our Lord, appointed the Apostle Peter as the 'rock' upon which He founded the spiritual edifice of the Church,” Benedict XVI noted that the Syriac Church has brought its Eastern traditions in a complementary way to its “communion with the Bishop of Rome.”
The Pontiff then recalled how, in order to emphasise "the Eucharistic roots" of this communion, he had granted "ecclesiastica communio" to the patriarch when he was elected head of the Synod. Addressing the patriarch directly, he added: "With a public sign - yesterday's Eucharistic celebration in the basilica of St. Mary Major - you most appropriately demonstrated the close ties binding you to the bishop of Rome and the Universal Church."
Pope Benedict also underscored that the Eucharist “fuses our different traditions in the unity of the one Spirit, making them a source of wealth for all God's people.”
He pointed to the celebration of the Eucharist as a sure foundation and prayed that it would “keep you anchored in the ancient Syriac tradition which can claim to possess the language the Lord Jesus spoke, and at the same time open your horizons to ecclesial universality.
The Syriac Catholic Church exists primarily in the Holy Land, Iraq and Lebanon, and given the decades of turmoil in the region, the Pope pointed to “the Eucharist, Sacrament of unity and community,” as the source of strength to “overcome the difficulties your Church has faced over recent years, in order to rediscover the paths of forgiveness, reconciliation and communion."
"I pray continuously, among other things, for peace in the Middle East, especially for Christians living in the blessed land of Iraq, whose sufferings I offer every day to God during the Eucharistic sacrifice," the Holy Father said.
Rome, Italy, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the tomb of Padre Pio, Brother Francesco Dileo, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace, where the Pope will celebrate Mass this Sunday, said his visit will encourage the faithful to imitate the saint from Pietrelcina and thus follow Christ with more devotion.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the rector noted how “Padre Pio once said, ‘I will make more noise dead than alive.’ And in fact, the number of pilgrims is much higher compared to the end of 1968,” with some seven million visiting the shrine annually.
Speaking about the number of faithful who come to San Giovanni Rotondo to pray to the saint for a miracle, Brother Dileo said he receives an enormous amount of letters from people praying for Padre Pio’s intercession. The letters are directly addressed to Padre Pio, “as if he were still alive, to ask for some physical or spiritual healing,” the brother said.
“I am firmly convinced that the grace of God that touches the hearts of men and makes the faith blossom and be reborn continues to work in this place, even after the death of Padre Pio,” he said. “I think it is difficult to encounter the life of this saint without sensing a desire to renounce sin and change one’s conduct.”
Referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit this coming Sunday, Brother Dileo said, “The picture of Benedict XVI in prayer in front of the remains of our beloved brother saint will certainly be more eloquent than many words.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - Colombia’s House of Representatives has approved a law that promotes mass sterilization and special incentives for those who voluntary undergo the procedure.
The measure sponsored by Senators Samuel Arrieta and Gabriel Zapata orders that vasectomies and tubal ligations be offered free of charge at state-run hospitals with no restrictions on any eventual patients.
The new law offers incentives to Colombians who volunteer to undergo the procedures, such as the expedited passport services, preferential access to government subsidies, state resources, and the purchase and sale of real estate.
Madrid, Spain, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference has issued a strongly-worded statement against the government’s proposed reform of abortion laws saying abortion is the murder of an unborn child and can never be considered a right.
In their statement the bishops said, “The most sobering aspect of this law is its pretention to label abortion as a right that must be protected by the State.”
The measure stipulates that up to fourteenth week of pregnancy, “the will of the mother becomes the absolute arbiter over the life or death of the child she carries in her womb,” the bishops said.
“However, the right to life is not a concession by the State, it is a right that precedes the State itself, which has the obligation to always protect it. The State lacks any authority to establish a span of time within which the practice of abortion would cease to be an attack on life,” they said.
“The inclusion of abortion within the means that are supposedly necessary to care for a person’s health is in and of itself gravely false. Abortion never heals, it always kills. An authentic health care policy should always take into account the health of pregnant women, but also the life and health of the child to be born,” the bishops said.
They went on to express their bewilderment that the proposed reform breaks pregnancy down into three periods that treat human life differently, saying that it is “irrational” to claim that “during a certain period of time the living being that is product of human fertilization is not human” and that life can be taken simply because a woman wishes to do so.
“It is like recognizing a right to kill an innocent being,” they maintained.
After denouncing the State for not helping women avoid the trauma of abortion and its consequences, the bishops pointed out that “eliminating a life is never a merely private affair. On the contrary, it is an act of great public transcendence. The life of the unborn is a fundamental element of the common good that demands special protection and promotion.
Policies that protect motherhood and fatherhood ought to be advanced” in Spain, they said, which is lagging far behind other European countries in this area.
“Each human being is, therefore, a sacred gift for their parents and for all of society,” the bishops stated. Life “must never be considered an object subordinate to the desire of others. It must never be left to the will of anyone, much less the state, whose most basic duty is precisely to guarantee the right to life of everyone, as a fundamental element of the common good.”
Brasilia, Brazil, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - In a letter to all the priests of the country, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Brazil urged them to work for the sanctification of priests, so that they may be able to fulfill their mission in the Church and in contemporary society.
In their letter, the bishops expressed their profound gratitude to “all the priests who daily serve the People of God.” “Despite their frailties, we recognize the great gift of God in the lives and ministries of the priests of Brazil.”
The bishops went on to recall the words of Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who called on priests at the 12th National Meeting of Priests to be “dignified, good men of God who are admirable, generous, honest, and untiring in devoting all of their energies to their ministries and to evangelization, especially to the poor and the marginalized, to those in despair and suffering.”
Following on Cardinal Hummes' exhortation, the bishops urged priests to greater zeal during this special year, “to make it a true instrument of communion between priests, that you may help each other in different circumstances.”
May the Year for Priests “be a time in which the sanctification of priests is intensified and promoted and they are helped to persevere in the awareness of the importance of their role in the Church and in contemporary society,’ the bishops said.
Vatican City, Jun 19, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI solemnly convoked the Year for Priests at St. Peter's Basilica on Friday evening, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in the year of the 150th anniversary of St. Jean Vianney's death. The Pope's message for priests around the world was to urge them to grow in intimacy with Jesus.
“Our mission is indispensable for the Church and the world” and they both ask for “full faithfulness to Christ and relentless union with Him,” the Holy Father said as he opened the Year for Priests.
Pope Benedict made sure to tie in the anniversary of St. Jean Vianney's death, telling the assembled priests that he wanted to begin the Year “on the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Priest from the village of Ars.”
For the Pope, St. Jean Vianney's example is exemplary and calls the priests of today to “constantly try to achieve holiness, as St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney did.”
The Holy Father also touched on today's Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
"Priesthood is love for the Heart of Jesus," exclaimed Benedict XVI, recalling that “the gift of our priesthood originated directly from that Heart,”
Explaining his expectations for the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict said that he hopes it will be a chance for priests to grow in intimacy with Jesus and become “in today's world, messengers of hope, reconciliation, and peace."