Rome, Italy, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Rafael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, India deplored this week that two years after the widespread attacks on Christians in Orissa, no one has been detained or charged for the grave damage to property and lives that resulted.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the cardinal commented that “people are afraid to return, because they fear being attacked again. In addition, it doesn’t appear that the criminals have been punished yet, despite that two years have passed.”
“No one has been charged for the damage to property, for those who lost their lives or for those who were forced to flee. No criminal has been punished for this,” he stated.
The archbishop asserted that, “Christians were attacked above all because of fundamentalist Hindu ideology, which challenges the way in which a Hindu nation should be founded. So the fundamentalists looked for an opportunity to do this. The main reason for the attack on Kandhamal is because it was an area where a large number of conversions have taken place over the last ten years,” he said.
In addition, the archbishop said, “the Dalit, the so-called untouchables, were considered outsiders, with no right to speak and uneducated. Now, however, they are developing socially and economically and making great progress.”
Archbishop Cheenath also said that he believes Hindus are worried that they will be shamed by the Dalit Christian converts.
“Hindus don’t want people who were once their slaves to achieve more respectable positions in society, with good jobs and better positions. The advancement of the Dalit and of the tribes challenges the upper classes: Hindus do not want this to happen, and for this reason they want to stop it. Basically, the reason is that they do not want the outsiders to grow and put the upper class to the test.”
Asked later about the state of the faith of Christians, the archbishop said, “While at the beginning the situation was very sad and hopeless, I have seen much faith in the people. They are full of hope, their faith is very strong and they express it in many ways. We will be able to rebuild on the foundation of the people’s faith,” he said.
Detroit, Mich., Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Detroit has launched a “Pallium Blog” to cover Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s reception of the pallium in Rome. The blog includes reports from the archbishop and those accompanying him to Rome, including his two young nephews and a woman who runs a Detroit Italian restaurant.
The first entry of the blog, which is titled “A Shepherd’s Mission,” consisted of a letter from Archbishop Vigneron explaining the nature and purpose of the pallium, a narrow band or collar of white wool with six black crosses.
A pallium is worn at Mass by an archbishop who heads an Ecclesiastical Province. The garment signifies his leadership and authority. It is bestowed upon archbishops by the Pope at a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica on June 29, the Solemnity of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.
“For me, this event is one of the great graces of my priesthood,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote of the upcoming ceremony. “As I kneel on the platform over St. Peter’s Tomb, I will be begging for two things from God: first that He strengthen me to be a good shepherd of His people; and second, that He help all of you and your families to grow in that same life and holiness that the Apostles handed on to us from Jesus.”
He also asked the faithful of Detroit to pray for him.
In other entries on “A Shepherd’s Mission,” the archbishop reflects on returning to see places in Rome such as the North American College, where he was a seminarian for four years.
Other contributors to the blog include pilgrim Lidia Improta, a Detroit laywoman who runs Vince’s Italian Restaurant with her husband Frank.
“I would say to the people reading the blog that they need to pray for the archbishop, and all the bishops and priests especially, that they can be good leaders in the Catholic Church!” she wrote in a June 24 entry.
Garret and Griffin Vigneron, young nephews of the archbishop, also have an entry on the blog.
“We are excited that our uncle will be receiving his Pallium at St. Peter’s next week and we feel honored to be invited,” they wrote. “This will be our first time in Italy and are looking forward to visiting historic places in Rome. Our first stop will hopefully be the Colosseum on Friday, before the events with Uncle Al.”
The archdiocese explained that the blog was a way for readers to receive updates from the archbishop and his fellow pilgrims.
“We encourage you to participate here, send in your questions and comments, and to follow along as we prepare for the journey,” it wrote in a June 19 posting.
The blog is located at http://aodonline.wordpress.com/.
Other U.S. prelates who will receive a pallium include Archbishops Robert Carlson of St. Louis, George Lucas of Omaha, Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Timothy Dolan of New York.
International prelates receiving their pallium include Archbishops Vincent Nichols of Westminster, Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janiero, Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Michael Miller of Vancouver, Pierre-Andre Fournier of Rimouski, Quebec and Archbishop of Lviv Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki.
Richmond, Va., Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 6-5 decision on Wednesday upheld Virginia’s partial-birth abortion ban. In his concurring opinion, one judge wrote that the law protects the “weakest” and “most helpless” and condemned the use of the Constitution to justify “dismembering” a partly born child and “crushing” its skull.
In its ruling “Richmond Medical Center v. Herring,” the court said the 2003 Virginia law does not unduly burden a woman’s legal right to terminate a pregnancy by more conventional means. It also ruled the law is clear about the type of procedure banned and adequately protects women’s health.
The decision reverses a May 2008 2-1 panel decision which struck down the law, which is similar to a federal statute prohibiting a procedure in which the baby is partially delivered and then killed.
According to the Alliance Defense Fund, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Fourth Circuit panel to revisit its original September 2007 decision that the ban was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court had upheld a partial-birth abortion ban in the case “Carhart v. Gonzales.”
Judge Paul V. Niemeyer authored the majority opinion in Wednesday’s decision, which won the concurrence of Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III.
"A partially born child is among the weakest, most helpless beings in our midst and on that account exerts a special claim on our protection," Judge Wilkinson wrote.
“The fact is that we--civilized people—are retreating to the haven of our Constitution to justify dismembering a partly born child and crushing its skull,” his opinion continued. “Surely centuries hence, people will look back on this gruesome practice done in the name of fundamental law by a society of high achievement. And they will shudder.”
According to the Associated Press, Judge M. Blane Michael in a dissenting opinion said the law was unconstitutional because it imposes criminal liability on any doctor who intends to perform a “standard D&E” that “by accident becomes an intact D&E.”
Opponents of the law unsuccessfully argued it was unconstitutional on the grounds the procedure was too broadly defined it would prohibit the most common form of second-trimester abortion, known as a “dilation and extraction.”
In medical terminology, a partial-birth abortion is described as an “intact” dilation and extraction.
“To hold the Virginia Act facially unconstitutional for all circumstances based on the possible rare circumstance presented... is not appropriate under any standard for facial challenges,” the Fourth Circuit’s Wednesday decision read.
It added that the law provides “sufficient clarity” about prohibited conduct to enable a doctor of “reasonable intelligence” to avoid criminal liability.
Violation of the law is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
All six judges who upheld the law were appointed by Republican presidents while the five dissenters were Democratic appointees.
Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel for the pro-life Alliance Defense Fund, said the initial ruling of the three-judge panel “conflicted significantly” with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.
“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless. Virginia has legitimately chosen to protect innocent life from a terrible procedure, and the court was right to uphold Virginia’s law,” he added.
Winnipeg, Canada, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - An investigating committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has submitted its report clearing a CCCB-run development agency of charges it helped fund pro-abortion groups in Mexico. However, the CCCB president said that reports of such funding for Peruvian groups require “clarification” from the Peruvian bishops.
In March LifeSiteNews.com published reports indicating that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) was distributing funds to five organizations that support the legalization of abortion and the distribution of contraceptives in Mexico.
During its June 18 meeting, the Permanent Council of the CCCB received a report and recommendations from its Committee of Inquiry established to investigate the allegations.
A CCCB press release initially said that there would be no further comment until the committee’s recommendations were published.
However, in a Thursday e-mail CCCB President and Archbishop of Winnipeg V. James Wiesgerber told CNA that the investigation of the five CCODP-supported groups in Mexico was “complete.”
“The delegation of bishops determined that that the allegations were unfounded,” he added, saying that the committee report will be distributed to CCCB members and will be discussed during the fall plenary session.
Development and Peace funding of pro-abortion groups is also alleged to have taken place in other Latin American countries.
The National Catholic Register has reported that the CCCB agency was supporting questionable “reproductive health” groups in Bolivia. One such organization, “Centro de Promoción y Salud Integral” (CEPROSI), supported a “strong pro-abortion law” in the country, a Bolivian pro-life advocate said.
Early in June, Archbishop Jose Eguren, President of the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference’s Family, Childhood and Life Commission, wrote to CCCB president Archbishop James Weisgerber about similar allegations in Peru.
Archbishop Eguren’s letter said there was “no doubt” such funding has taken place, reporting each of the three
accused CCODP-funded groups “either explicitly endorses abortion, and/or contraception, either by name or by its various euphemisms.”
The Peruvian archbishop requested the Development and Peace funding be halted.
Speaking to CNA, Archbishop Weisgerber said there was “a lack of clarity” concerning the letter from the Peruvian Conference's Commission for Life and Family.
“CCODP has had a long and close relationship with the Peruvian Bishop's Commission for Justice and Peace. We are seeking clarification from the Peruvian Conference of Bishops as to their position on this matter.”
CNA asked the archbishop to confirm some of his remarks to Catholic News Service. He had said it was “very clear” from the direction of Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council that the church is to work with other people “but not, in a sense, blindly.”
Speaking to CNA, Archbishop Weisgerber said he’d like to add to those comments the phrase “provided, of course, that the common project does not contradict principles of our moral tradition."
He also referred to a paragraph of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Mater and Magistra, in which the Pontiff discussed Catholic interaction with those who do not share their view of life.
"We have to work with people whose values we are not necessarily in agreement with," he had told CNS.
The Canadian prelate the example of “yearly Vatican contributions to UNICEF, with which the Vatican has disagreed on contraception and abortion policy. Vatican donations are earmarked for specific programs or projects that reflect church priorities,” according to CNS.
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - "But, will he actually be dead?" asks the headline of L'Osservatore Romano, the day after Michael Jackson died of a heart attack in Los Angeles. Today the Vatican's newspaper looks back at the pop star's life and comments on the popular impact of his death.
LOR begins its story by saying that, despite his personal scandals, Jackson is on his way to becoming a pop icon like his former father-in law, Elvis Presley; or like Jimmy Hendrix. Besides, the story notes, Jackson started his career as a member of the Jackson Five, which brought him fame even before he began his solo career.
"In those times he was still black. He hadn't started yet the process of self definition, that was beyond race, that within the years made him look no longer like an African American man," says the article.
This path, says LOR, was "a hard human way, probably painfully marked by some severe falls, that were reflected in his artistic itinerary.”
He was original because he "intended to overcome the limits of black music, in which he had his cultural roots, arriving at some territories that were still closed to black artists."
The article recalls that “Thriller” was the best selling album in history, with 100 million copies sold. This hit made it possible for Michael Jackson to make a big difference, at least musically, the paper added.
L'Osservatore also notes that the fame Jackson acheived wasn't solely due to his singing and dancing. "Everybody knows [about] his problems with the law after the pedophilia accusations.”
Many people are mourning his death in a very emotional way, the Vatican newspaper concludes.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Mexican association Suma Tu Voz (Unite Your Voice) has criticized new government-issued health care booklets that include information on contraceptives and the morning-after pill aimed at young people aged 10-19.
According to the newspaper A.M. in Leon, the president of Suma Tu Voz, Lourdes Casares, explained that the booklets do not specify if parental consent is required for the so-called right to request the morning-after pill and receive advice about reproductive “rights.”
Likewise, she questioned if the Secretary of Health would have the capacity to provide adequate orientation to all those who possess a booklet, so that it is used responsibly and with the consent of parents when merited.
“Planning your family is your right;” “If you have had unprotected sexual relations and 72 hours have not passed, you can request emergency contraception. Protect yourself. Its your right!,” are two of the phrases included on pages 20 and 21 of the booklets intended for students aged 10-19.
“Will the 10, 12 or 14 year-old child have the booklet? Or will his or her parents? Who has given the consent for all of these norms by which the Secretariat of Health is interfering in families?” Casares questioned.
She also said that children between the ages of 10 and 16 are incapable of forming a family and have no legal ability to be married. The Secretariat of Health and Education estimates that some 317,000 booklets will be distributed.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - In a press release about the Pilgrimage for Peace and Unity, which will take place on June 28 in the Mexican capital, the organization Union de Voluntades (Union of Wills)—an umbrella organization that represents dozens of Catholic entities—called on candidates for the upcoming elections to clearly define their positions on life issues.
“Faced with the upcoming elections and the possibility that the political contest divides and fractures the unity of our country, we need to pray that the best interests of the nation—peace, harmony and the desire to resolve the serious problems our people face—be above the usual rivalry of the candidates,” the organization said.
It also stressed that “it is time to close ranks and work for the great principles that keep nations united: justice, the rule of law, the common good, the defense of life from conception to natural death and total respect for human dignity.”
After emphasizing that Union of Wills is non-partisan, the organization asked “all political parties and candidates for any office to abstain from participating in the pilgrimage” on Sunday, saying to do so would be to take advantage of the concerns and feelings of those in attendance in a way that would be inappropriate. It added, however, that voters have a right to know what the candidates positions are on life issues and that candidates have the duty to disclose them.
The organization said it has asked the Mexico City government to provide security for the Sunday event, emphasizing that it will be “peaceful gathering, expressly void of any act that is offensive or provocative.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said the Church does not take sides with any one particular political party, but rather she fulfills her mission to guide the faithful with the criteria necessary to choose between the different candidates for political office.
During a pastoral visit to Iztapalapa, the cardinal pointed out that the Church should not single out, favor or oppose any person or party, but she should “provide general elements in advising whether they have the necessary qualities or capacities in order to know if the person in whom we are placing our trust is able to perform.”
Cardinal Rivera also said the mission of priests is not to be social leaders, as “others are meant to be political leaders.” “We will not be those leaders, but we should help people to see they can [be] and [that they] should demand what was promised them,” he said.
Denver, Colo., Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - Addressing the National Catholic Bible Conference on Friday morning, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver James D. Conley urged Catholics to be “disciples of the Word” like King Josiah, the priest Ezra and St. Francis of Assisi. Recovery of God’s Word can create renewal and change “hearts and history,” he said.
“Too few of us think of God’s Word as exciting or newsworthy enough to be sought out every day. And therefore too many of us miss the most newsworthy event in life – the experience of God, the creator of the universe, speaking to us through His Word,” Bishop Conley said in his speech, which was originally to be delivered by Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput.
The bishop recounted the story of Josiah, whom he called “perhaps the greatest of the Davidic Kings of Judah.” His example teaches Christians the need for “hope in the midst of darkness.”
Josiah’s grandfather King Manesseh committed evils such as idolatry and child sacrifice, even sacrificing his own sons. Such evils were continued by Manesseh’s son Amon.
“It’s sobering that God’s own people could be so degraded by a pagan culture that they would sacrifice their own children. But obviously we don’t need to look very far to find modern parallels,” Bishop Conley stated.
King Josiah came to power at a very young age in a culture that had “imbibed for almost two generations the worst of pagan beliefs and behaviors.” He was part of a family that was “far from the Lord.”
Bishop Conley noted the Scriptures’ description of how Josiah “began to seek the God of David his father,” saying his action teaches us that renewal of the Church and the world must begin with ourselves.
Turning back to the story of Josiah, Bishop Conley recalled how he rediscovered a book of Hebrew Scriptures in the Temple, which had been abandoned by his forerunners.
“When the book was read to the king and the people, it was the first hearing of the Torah for that generation. In other words, things had become so perverse that Israel had completely lost the Word of God, this last copy being found in the nearly abandoned Temple.”
Josiah responded to the Scriptures with “humility and penance,” moving his people to renew their covenant and to turn away from paganism.
“Renewal happened because Josiah recovered God’s Word and made it available to everyone,” the bishop explained, noting the Second Vatican Council’s exhortation that the Christian faithful frequently read the Scriptures.
“We need to hear God’s Word, not just one day a week but every day, until it soaks deeply into our souls. This is what Josiah did, and any personal and ecclesial renewal requires that each of us recover the daily practice of praying with and hearing God’s Word.”
The priest Ezra was also singled out by Bishop Conley. Leading the remnant of exiles returned from Jerusalem, he too read “the book of the law of Moses” to the people.
“Once again, the reading of God’s Word triggered a renewal of God’s people, and this Word was intended to be heard by all God’s people, not just the professional religious or experts.”
From Ezra’s example, Bishop Conley drew three lessons:
First, if we want to “hear” God’s Word in Scripture we must listen with “reverence” and a “sincere and humble piety.” Second, God’s Word is always delivered “within the context of the believing community” and cannot be fully understood outside of the “ecclesial context,” the Church. And third, to understand the meaning of our own lives requires that we must first “grasp the plot of God’s story.”
“This means that we can’t approach Scripture as if it were something that needs to be interpreted by us, but rather quite the opposite -- we need to let Scripture interpret us, our lives, and our world,” he explained. “To read the world in light of Scripture, as opposed to Scripture in light of the world, is the hallmark of a Christian reading of the Word of God.”
The bishop also noted the example St. Francis of Assisi, who heard the Gospels not as something in the past or as something meant for others but as “God’s Word spoken to him personally.” This motivated Francis to begin an “adventure” of recovery and renewal.
“The best way to evangelize is to burn, like St. Francis did, for the love of God. To sustain that kind of zeal you need constant contact with the fire of God’s Word.”
While much Scripture is simple enough to be understood without expertise, the bishop noted, he strongly recommended Catholics find “trustworthy guides” and pointed to the example of the graduates of the Denver Catholic Biblical School.
“The Church desperately needs many such guides to bring about the recovery of Scripture,” the Denver auxiliary said.
Pointing out that Catholics believe that the Eucharist and the Scriptures should both be reverenced, Bishop Conley said, “The Word of God listened to with obedience and lived with simplicity can still make news for those willing to hear.”
As he drew his talk to a close, the bishop urged his audience to help the Church make the Word of God spread “vigorously” in a culture that “desperately needs light to dispel its present darkness.”
“This is your task, beginning today: Be witnesses of the one, true and loving God. Be faithful sons and daughters of the Church. And like Josiah, Ezra and St. Francis, be disciples of the Word.”
Vatican City, Jun 26, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome, held a briefing this morning on the closure of the Pauline Year. The cardinal noted that although the year is coming to an end, "the great ferment of pastoral initiatives, catechesis, and cultural events is destined to continue and to find a large following at both the local and the continental level."
In the meeting, the cardinal reflected on the two basic objectives of the Pauline year, which were an increase in the knowledge of and mediation on the message of St. Paul and the creation of ecumenical programs to work with "non-Catholic Christian communities on various initiatives of prayer, study and culture."
Cardinal Montezemolo explained that since the inauguration of the Year of St. Paul on June 28, 2008, "the celebration of the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles was perceived and experienced as a fresh stimulus, a further reason to work towards evangelization."
"This was also felt in the Orthodox Churches and in many other Christian communities, and has become a shared commitment on the path to recreating unity among Christians," he added.
The cardinal noted that St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls has seen huge numbers of pilgrims over the last year. "On May 1, 2009 alone more than eighteen thousand pilgrims came to the basilica," he explained, "and over recent weeks we have certainly seen more than ten thousand a day."
For the celebration of the Pauline Year, an opening was made in the brickwork around Paul’s tomb under the main altar of the basilica "so that pilgrims could see one side of the great marble sarcophagus, which has never been opened and which has held the mortal remains of the Apostle for the last twenty centuries."
Although the Pauline year comes to an end on Sunday, Cardinal Montezemolo announced: "The Pauline Door ... will remain open, and the Pauline flame lit by the Holy Father at the beginning of this year will continue to burn... reminding all the pilgrims who continue to arrive from every corner of the globe of the richness and profundity of the Word of God transmitted to us by the Apostle of the Gentiles."