Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, encouraged Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land this week to embrace dialogue and collaboration in order to overcome “the conflict and violence” in the region, and thus reap the fruits of the recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
Speaking on Vatican Radio, the archbishop underscored that “the Church has always been an element of peace, collaboration and pacification. Therefore we hope to be able to advance in this mission.”
Commenting on the formation of Christians, the Patriarch explained that “especially in Jordan and Palestine, we who live with Muslims see our schools turned into places of dialogue and of life when young people play and study together. Through them we are in contact with Muslim families, the same families who come to us with so much trust.”
“This is the safest method—even after 20 years—to prepare people to get to know each other, respect and love each other,” the Patriarch said. The teaching imparted “by Catholic schools should be a means for conveying our values of respect, dignity and dialogue,” he added.
The Patriarch went on to say that the aid Christians receive in the Holy Land helps keep them present in the region, as “many young couples cannot even celebrate their wedding or start a family because they don’t have the resources to build a home.”
“With the aid from these organizations, we can ensure housing for these young Christian couples. And this is one of the many means to give them hope,” he said.
Referring later to the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land, the Patriarch said the Pope’s visit “has sowed many things. It has sowed peace, dialogue and reconciliation. We hope to be able to reap the fruits in the future, for the good of all the inhabitants and for the good of peace in the Holy Land.”
Necedah, Wis., Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic Word, a consortium of more than 15 publishers and music producers, has announced that it has taken over the distribution of Marian Press titles from STL Distributors. The change will concern titles related to the Divine Mercy devotions.
Marian Press, based in Stockbridge, Mass., publishes the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, other Divine Mercy materials and books by authors such as Fr. George Kosicki, Dr. Robert Stackpole and Fr. Donald Calloway.
The primary focus of Marian Press is the Divine Mercy, a daily devotion which has increased in popularity since 2000, when Pope John Paul II set the first Sunday after Easter as the universal feast of Divine Mercy.
“Catholic Word is very excited about being able to help Marian Press spread the desperately needed message of Our Lord’s Divine Mercy,” said Catholic Word President Carolyn Klika, who announced the change. “They are a perfect complement to our other publisher members, giving us an even greater ability to provide Christian resellers with some of the most influential titles in the Catholic market.”
The Catholic Word consortium helps publishers and music producers ship together to streamline resellers’ purchases. Founded in 1997, Catholic Word says its mission is to build up the Church “one soul at a time” through quality Catholic books, faith formation programs and other resources.
London, England, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - The leaders of the bishops’ conferences of G8 countries have called on the world leaders gathering at the G8 Summit in Italy to take “concerted action” to protect the poor and vulnerable of the world during the economic crisis.
Signatories to the letter included U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Cardinal Francis George, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops President James Weisgerber, and the Archbishops of Freisburg, Genoa, Paris, and Tokyo.
The prelates quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown before the G20 London meeting, which said that aid and assistance to less developed countries must not become a “victim” of the economic crisis.
“Ironically poor people have contributed the least to the economic crisis facing our world, but their lives and livelihoods are likely to suffer the greatest devastation because they struggle at the margins in crushing poverty,” the bishops’ conference presidents wrote. “In light of this fact, the G8 nations should meet their responsibility to promote dialogue with other powerful economies to help prevent further economic crises.”
They encouraged “deepening partnerships” with developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to help people become “active agents” in their own development.
“In a particular way it is important to strengthen peacekeeping so that armed conflicts do not continue to rob countries of the resources needed for development,” they added.
The archbishops and bishops also said that poor countries that are least at fault for the human sources of climate change face the most risks from its consequences.
“As Catholic pastors and teachers, we have a special concern for how climate change impacts the poor,” they wrote, endorsing “concrete commitments” to “mitigate” further climate change.
“Protecting the poor and the planet are not competing causes; they are moral priorities for all people living in this world.”
“The G8 Summit takes place in the shadow of a global economic crisis, but its actions can help bring a light of hope to our world,” the prelates continued. “By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable, you can help assure that the common good of all is served. As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members.”
They closed their letter to G8 leaders with prayers for the summit to be blessed by a “spirit of collaboration.”
Responding to the bishops’ letter, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote to signatories Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols and Archbishop of Edinburgh and St. Andrews Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien. He expressed his shared commitment to “development issues.”
“When we met earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI and I agreed that there is a moral imperative that world leaders maintain and fulfill our commitments to the world's poorest, particularly during the global downturn.”
Prime Minister Brown said the agreements at the London G20 Summit included $50 billion in support of the poorest countries. Maintaining aid commitments to reduce global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals would help alleviate the present economic crisis, he added.
The prime minister said he was determined to make progress on health issues, especially maternal mortality.
“We must also ensure that recent gains for development are not lost,” he wrote, also noting his appreciation for the Catholic Church’s interest in climate change.
“Eradicating poverty in developing countries and tackling climate change are inextricably linked,” he said.
CNA STAFF, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - A devastating act of vandalism at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mandarin, Florida last weekend left a total of nine religious statues damaged. Fr. Daniel Cody, pastor of St. Joseph’s, said that he was disappointed by the incident, but is asking his parishioners to pray for whoever committed the acts.
Some statues were only slightly damaged after being pushed from their pedestals, while others were completely destroyed. Included in the damage was a statue of St. Patrick that cost well over $30,000, now shattered. Another statue depicted the Blessed Mother. Made of white Italian marble, it was worth over $22,000. Pushed off its base, the statue is now missing its head.
The vandalism is believed to have occurred sometime Saturday night, and was discovered Sunday morning as the Church was being opened for Mass.
Fr. Daniel Cody, pastor of St. Joseph’s, told CNA that efforts are being made to repair the damaged statues. Those that were only slightly damaged have already been placed back on their pedestals, while those that suffered more extensive harm will require restoration work.
“We have two people from the city who do this sort of work, and have volunteered to help us repair them,” said Fr. Cody, adding that they are planning to visit the parish on Thursday to inspect the damage.
In addition to the Church, the vandals also targeted statues across the street at the Cody Family Enrichment Center and near the cemetery, an area known collectively as “Catholic corners.”
“We had a problem like this about 10 or 12 years ago in the cemetery,” Cody told CNA, adding that such acts are generally not common, and authorities currently have no leads as to who committed the act.
“But we’ve had huge publicity,” Cody continued, noting that the local media have all covered the story. “And we’re offering a $1,000 reward.”
This incident comes just days after unknown vandals desecrated a statue of Jesus at Saint Ann’s Catholic Church in the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The statue was discovered decapitated and covered in graffiti. In addition, windows in the school building were broken and vulgar graffiti was sprayed inside the church.
The statue, originally a gift, had been blessed by the church and will now have to be buried. Police are investigating the damage at St. Ann’s, which they estimate to total around $4,500.
Vatican City, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - At a Thursday meeting of organizations dedicated to providing aid to the Eastern Churches, Pope Benedict XVI reiterated his call for an end to war, violence and injustice in the Holy Land and pledged the Church's continued support.
The audience with the Holy Father involved participants in the annual general meeting of the Reunion of Organizations for Aid to the Oriental Churches (ROACO). The meeting had focused on the situation in the Holy Land and on the Catholic Church in Bulgaria.
Pope Benedict began his speech to the group by reflecting on charity, which he called “the fertile source of all forms of service to the Church.” Charity is the measure, method and means by which one can verify these services, he said.
The members of ROACO, the Pope said, are able to “continue, even to augment, that 'movement of charity which, by papal mandate, the Congregation supervises so that, in a disciplined and equitable way, the Holy Land and other eastern regions may receive the spiritual and material support necessary for ordinary ecclesial life and for special needs."
Recalling his pilgrimage to the Holy Land this past May, Benedict XVI stated, "I renew my prayer and my appeal for no more war, no more violence, no more injustice.”
The Pontiff also gave his assurance that “the Universal Church remains at the side of all our brothers and sisters who reside in the Holy Land. This concern is reflected in a special way in the annual Holy Land collection. I therefore exhort your ROACO agencies to continue their charitable activities with zeal and with fidelity to the Successor of Peter."
At the end of the audience the Pope turned his attention to the recently inaugurated Year for Priests, calling upon his audience "to give maximum attention to caring for clergy and supporting seminaries."
He also recalled how, in inaugurating this Jubilee Year on June 19, "I entrusted all the priests of the world to the Heart of Christ and of Mary Immaculate, with a special thought for those who, in both East and West are experiencing moments of difficulty and trial. I take this occasion," he concluded, "to ask you too to pray for priests."
Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan, who brought a relic of St. Therese of Lisieux with him on the Discovery space shuttle during his last trip to space, attended Pope Benedict XVI’s Wednesday audience this week and was greeted by the Pontiff.
In 2011, Garan plans to bring another relic of the saint with him on a mission to the international space station.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, the idea of bringing “a relic came to fruition because of his spiritual bond with the Carmelites of New Caney, Texas.”
Garan and his family founded the Manna association, a NASA entity which has developed a system for generating potable water for Rwanda and has provided solar panels for schools and hospitals in the country.
Baton Rouge, La., Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - On Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana Healthcare Workers Conscience Act, HB-517, passed the Senate by a vote of 31-2 and the House by a margin of 88-12. The decision is being celebrated by local pro-lifers as a means to help those in the medical profession “excel” without being forced to act “against their conscience.”
The Act states that “no person shall be required to participate in any health care service that violates his conscience to the extent that patient access to health care is not compromised.”
Although pro-abortion politicians had worked to weaken the bill, amending it so that it only applied to public employees, Senator Amedee led successful efforts to remove that amendment, making the bill valid for both public and private health care professionals.
Benjamin Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, said that the passage of the bill is a victory for health care workers across the state.
“The passage of our Louisiana's Health Care Rights of Conscience Act gives Louisiana's health care professionals, both present and future, the ability to excel in their profession without concerns that they will be coerced into providing some service that is against their conscience,” Clapper told CNA.
“Even though this legislation was under sustained attack from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, Louisiana understood that conscience rights should be protected, especially when the Obama Administration is moving to rescind federal protections on conscience.”
The bill now goes to Governor Bobby Jindal, who has a strong pro-life record and has promised to sign it into law.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - Farrah Fawcett, a star of the television classic “Charlie’s Angels,” succumbed to cancer on Thursday after receiving last rites.
On Wednesday night a priest had been summoned to the Los Angeles hospital where the 62-year-old Fawcett was being treated for anal cancer, the New York Daily News says. Her struggle with the illness was chronicled in an NBC documentary.
The New York Daily News described Fawcett as a “devout Catholic.”
She and her longtime fiancé Ryan O’Neal had agreed to marry.
"Farrah is fighting for her life. But we will wed as soon as she can say yes,” Neal told Barbara Walters in a “20/20” interview before Fawcett’s death. “Maybe we can just nod her head.”
The two have a 24-year-old son, Redmond O’Neal.
London, England, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales expressed its rejection of a norm that would allow the advertising of abortion and condoms on the airwaves and said such advertising would be a failure to protect young people, who are already taught an “impoverished view of sex” by society.
In a statement prepared by the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, the bishops said they do not believe that services which offer or refer for abortion should be allowed to advertise on broadcast media” because “abortion is neither medicine nor a consumer product. Presenting it as either of these erodes respect for life, and is highly misleading and damaging to women, who may feel pressured into making a quick decision which can never be revoked.”
“Allowing broadcast advertising of abortion services would contribute to a further ‘normalisation’ of abortion and its assimilation to a consumer service,” the bishops said.
They also deplored a plan to promote condoms among British youth. “It is profoundly inappropriate to advertise condoms to children,” the bishops said, pointing out that “promoting the use of condoms cannot be separated from promoting sex, and the sexualisation of the target audience, which will be extended in this case to children from 10 – 16 years old.”
The use of condoms, the prelates said, “does not in any way remove the moral or legal objections to sex involving children.” “Our society is already failing young people by presenting an impoverished view of sex, too often entirely separated from any context of committed love and readiness for parenthood,” they added.
“It is very important that this process is not encouraged by a willingness to advertise services which have already done enormous damage to perceptions of sex in our society,” the bishops warned.
“In the many cases where respect for life, as well as sex and marriage, is at issue, the situation is still more serious, since not only the rights of young people are at stake, but those of any child they conceive. Respect for life, sex and parenthood are central to a healthy society, and advertising standards should reflect this,” they said.
Asunción, Paraguay, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - Bishop Rogelio Livieres of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay exhorted priests this week to overcome the “filth” of scandals, which arise from bad doctrine, sinful lives, the abandonment of the faithful to sects and economic corruption.
Over the last year, Paraguyans have witnessed former bishop Fernando Lugo abandon his commitment to his diocese and vocation. Lugo then became the country's president, only to later have it revealed that he fathered at least one child while he was a bishop.
Bishop Livieres addressed these types of behavoir in a letter to mark the Year for Priests, saying the “filth” of some priests that has led to scandals. In the letter, the bishop also called on priests to “not lose sight of the transcendental vocation they have been called to by Jesus Christ.”
The bishop identified four areas of “filth” that need to be overcome: “False doctrines that have politicized and secularized the faith, as if the Kingdom of God were of this world; sins that have led some to have an immoral double life and to cause scandal; negligence of apostolic responsibilities and the abandonment of the faithful that has led to the advance of sects; and economic corruption.”
He noted that although the majority of priests serve faithfully, the Church is discredited by the scandals of a few which—whether proven or not—are spread by the media. “In any case, abuses must be corrected and there must be authentic renewal,” the bishop said.
For this reason, he stressed that seminary formation must “strongly emphasize the sacred identity of the priest as minister of God, unconditional fidelity to the doctrine and morality of the Church, and obedience to the commandment to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, beginning with one’s own parish.”
Bishop Livieres called on all of the faithful to participate in this effort of renewal. “Renewing our priests does not mean trading them for others when they have problems, but rather on the contrary, calling them to conversion, encouraging them and helping them.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, called on politicians this week to seek holiness in their service to others and to create “conditions of equal opportunity among all citizens” for their development, in the spirit of St. Thomas Moore.
“Political activity should be carried out with a spirit of service. It is a true vocation that dignifies those who exercise it, in particular in government, in the establishing of laws and in public administration in its diverse spheres,” the cardinal said, commemorating the feast of St. Thomas Moore, the patron of Catholic politicians and lawmakers.
Cardinal Rivera stressed that politicians should not only be concerned about giving each person his due, but also about “creating conditions of equal opportunity among all citizens" so that "those who run the risk of being relegated to or occupying the lowest spots in society, with no chance of personal recovery” are supported.
He criticized those who put their personal interests above the common good, which causes “the unbearable scandal of the opulent societies of today’s world, in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.”
The cardinal also urged Christian politicians to embrace and live out the principles of the Church’s social doctrine, “which is not an ideology and much less a political program, but rather offers the fundamental basis for understanding man and society in light of the universal ethical law, present in the heart of every man and illuminated by Gospel principles.”
“It’s not a question of going in circles with the problems but of confronting them with the testimony of a coherent faith,” Cardinal Rivera said. “In a secular society we must be respectful of believers and non-believers, but we must never be ashamed into silence about our principles and convictions,” he stated.
San Antonio, Texas, Jun 25, 2009 (CNA) - Last weekend, Archbishop of Boston Seán Cardinal O’Malley led a three-day retreat for the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL). Saying Catholics should not be “overwhelmed” by sin, the cardinal spoke about confession and recounted his father’s advice to confess every time one is ready for a haircut.
At the CALL retreat, held at the Mexican American Catholic College and Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, the cardinal gave three extended homilies on topics concerning prayer, reconciliation and a deeper appreciation of the Eucharist.
Speaking about the parable of the Prodigal Son, he said that the true Catholic attitude is “not to be overwhelmed by sin no matter what our situation, because it is so clear that the Father of the Prodigal Son is not merely willing, but anxious to forgive.”
“The Father never imposes himself, but waits longingly, scanning the horizon for a glimpse of us, and upon spotting our return in the distance, rushes to meet us.”
Cardinal O’Malley recounted how his father was “very clear” about how often to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation: “When it was time to get a haircut, it was time to go to confession.”
He also advised people to be forgiving of others and not develop what he jokingly called “Irish Alzheimer’s,” defining it as “an unpleasant condition where you forget everything but your grudges!”
As a young Capuchin Franciscan friar, Cardinal O’Malley had earned a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literature from the Catholic University of America to prepare for service in Latin America. His religious superiors asked him to serve the growing Hispanic community in the United States.
He taught at Catholic University and founded the Centro Católico Hispano (Hispanic Catholic Center) in Washington, D.C. The center provides educational, medical and legal assistance to immigrants.
Archbishop of San Antonio José Gomez, Episcopal Moderator of CALL, also addressed the group of Latino leaders, saying that more and more people are living “without an awareness of God and their Christian identity because of the strong influence and pressures of the secular culture.”
“How can people meet Christ if we do not show them the way? We must ask ourselves, how is what I do leading people to Jesus Christ?”
The retreat closed with a Father’s Day liturgy and the presentation of a “spiritual bouquet” to Cardinal O'Malley and Archbishop Gomez in thanksgiving for their leadership.
The website of CALL is at http://www.call-usa.org