Hollywood, Calif., Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) -
An upcoming movie will portray the real life story of Ugandan schoolgirls kidnapped from their Catholic school in 1996 by the notoriously cruel Lord’s Resistance Army and the largely successful rescue attempt of their teacher, a heroic religious sister.
The independent feature "Girl Soldier" is a fictionalized story based upon the 2007 book "Stolen Angels" by the Ottawa author Kathy Cook. The film will star actress Uma Thurman as Sister Caroline, who was born in Italy as Rachele Fassera.
In 1996 armed rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnapped 139 young girls from St. Mary's College in Aboke to turn them into soldiers and sex slaves. According to the Ottawa Herald, Sr. Caroline tracked down the rebels to their camp and fought for their release. She succeeded in rescuing 109 of them.
The sister then made it her mission to rescue captured youths in Africa with the assistance of their parents, the government, the U.N. and the Pope.
The violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army continues to the present day. In the weeks after Christmas 2008, LRA troops massacred 900 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They sacked and destroyed entire villages and killed entire families.
LRA leaders are wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
The movie "Girl Soldier" will begin shooting early next year in South Africa with a budget of under $20 million. According to Variety, it is being produced by Caspian Pictures, which was founded by Brian Bullock and Will Raee in order to make socially conscious, commercially viable films with mass appeal.
The film will be directed by Raee, who has worked as a producer on the television shows CSI and Criss Angel: Mindfreak.
Raee told the Ottawa Citizen that Thurman was "very upset" by the story of the crimes against the young women.
"She got very emotional and she grabbed me by the wrist and said, 'Will, this is a film that has to be made. You have all my support and my resources and I really want to help you to do this.' She was very passionate about it."
He said Thurman was touched by the story of Sister Caroline.
"Uma is a mother and I've never seen a more loving parent than her. She loves children, and for her to just imagine what these kids go through is really horrifying."
Thurman has spoken out about exploited children, saying in a published report "It's beyond me that in this day and age, the exploitation of child soldiers goes virtually unnoticed and unchecked by western media."
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Raee intends to recruit some real child soldiers to give a realistic tone to the movie. Pre-production and filming are expected to take up to five months.
Shangai, China, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) -
In a sign that the Chinese government may be taking a step towards ending its oppressive one-child policy, authorities in Shanghai encouraging thousands of couples to have a second baby to offset the graying of the Chinese population.
The official encouragement is the first in thirty years, the Times Online says. Authorities fear the growing demographic imbalance in Shanghai, China’s economic capital, concerned that the younger generation will not be able to support the aging population.
"We advocate eligible couples to have two kids because it can help to reduce the proportion of the aging people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future," commented Xie Linli, director of the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission.
Zhang Meixin, a spokesman for the Shanghai commission, said that the city’s over-60 population is already more than three million, comprising 21.6 percent of registered residents.
According to the Times, by 2020 the proportion of the elderly is expected to rise to 34 percent of the city’s population.
Across China the working-age population is expected to start shrinking in about 2015, with the total population peaking in 2030. Projections from the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies predict that by 2050 China will have more than 438 million people over the age of 60 and more than 100 million over the age of 80. There will be only 1.6 working-age adults for each person aged 60 or over, compared with 7.7 in 1975.
Under the one-child policy, all pregnancies are monitored and sometimes forcibly aborted. The policy was a population control measure intended to halt the growth of China’s population, the most populous in the world at 1.3 billion people.
Urban parents are permitted to have two children if the husband and wife were only children. In Shanghai the numbers of such couples have increased from 4,300 in 2005 to 7,300 in 2008. However, most couples who are permitted to have two children still only have one.
Couples in rural areas are allowed a second child if their first is a girl.
A cultural preference for boys has combined with the one-child policy to further skew the Chinese population by motivating parents to abort unborn girls. According to the Population Research Institute, a British Medical Journal study published in April 2009 found that males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million in China. More than 1.1 million "excess births" of boys occurred.
Based on 2005 census figures, there were 126 boys for every 100 girls in the one- to four-year old age group, the greatest imbalance yet. The respective natural birth rate for boys and girls is 107 males / 100 females.
The Chinese gender imbalance also portends great social problems in the future when significantly more men cannot find women to marry.
According to the Times Online, an online opinion poll at Sohu.com about the relaxation of the one-child policy showed 374 respondents supported the policy, while 514 were opposed.
One chat room commentator said it should have been done long ago.
"Otherwise, in a few years, a child will have no uncles, no aunts. These titles will be completely forgotten."
Another commenter said, "These days who dares to have a second baby? The cost of living and education are so high. Best not to have one at all."
Yet another writer recalled the policies of the 1950s and 1960s when Chairman Mao encouraged large families.
"Our parents were poor and they had five or six children. Now we are better off, but having even one baby is difficult. In the future we may not be willing even to have one and it will be like the West with a falling population. Terrible!"
New York City, N.Y., Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - "It felt like a horror film unfolding," said Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, the Brooklyn nurse who says she was forced to aid an abortion against her will. Now Cenzon-DeCarlo is speaking out, describing the terror she felt as she was asked to sacrifice her religious convictions for the sake of her job.
Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a devout Catholic, says she has been having nightmares and difficulty sleeping ever since the incident took place on May 24, reports the New York Post.
"I couldn't believe that this could happen," Cenzon-DeCarlo told the Post, describing how she was threatened with charges of insubordination and patient abandonment, which could result in possible loss of a job and nursing license, if she did not participate in the abortion.
Although she was told that it was an emergency and the woman would die if she did not assist, Cenzon-DeCarlo observed that the woman had not received the treatments typically given to a patient whose life is in danger as the hospital claimed it was.
She later found out that the hospital itself had declared the case a "Category II," meaning that it was not immediately life-threatening, and that there was a six-hour window for the operation to take place, allowing ample time for the hospital to find a replacement nurse who did not have moral objections to the procedure.
"I felt violated and betrayed," Cenzon-DeCarlo said.
The nurse had clearly stated that she was unwilling to aid in abortions during a job interview with Mount Sinai. She says she had put her beliefs in writing.
Cenzon-DeCarlo went on to explain that she was later told by two supervisors that she would need to sign a statement agreeing to participate in abortions if she wanted any more overtime shifts. Over the next month, she was designated only one overtime shift, instead of the eight or nine she was usually assigned, reported the New York Post.
Now, the Alliance Defense Fund is representing Cenzon-DeCarlo in a lawsuit that seeks to force Mount Sinai to surrender their federal funding because it has violated a federal rule protecting employees who morally object to controversial procedures.
The lawsuit also seeks damages on behalf of Cenzon-DeCarlo, as well as a restoration of her overtime shifts and a respect for her objections to abortion.
Now, the married mother of a year-old baby hopes the litigation will be enough to restore protection to her religious convictions. "I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred," she said. "Doctors and nurses shouldn't be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs."
Vatican City, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian Senate took time on Tuesday to hear about a topic not usually on their agenda—a papal encyclical. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, addressed the senators about "Caritas in Veritate" and how it can help them respond to the "ethical, cultural and social challenges of today."
The speech by Cardinal Bertone was delivered at the invitation of the president of the Italian Senate on Thursday morning.
Cardinal Bertone highlighted some of the anthropological and theological aspects of the Pope's latest encyclical, which is devoted to encouraging countries to promote the true development of man, a development that encompasses the material, spiritual and moral arenas.
The Secretary of State also recalled that in 2004 the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had given a "lectio magistralis" in the Senate library on the theme: "Europe. Its spiritual roots, yesterday, today and tomorrow." On that occasion, he reminded, the future Pontiff had focused on certain themes that are now contained in his third Encyclical, such as "the affirmation of the profound reasons behind the dignity of individuals and their rights," and marriage and the family as elements that have forged European identity.
The cardinal said that he believes the representatives of the Italian people will find the Pope's words to be "an exalted and profound source of inspiration when carrying out their mission." Hopefully, the encyclical will enable them to respond "adequately to the ethical, cultural and social challenges of today."
Avila, Spain, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, said last Friday that the proposed new law on abortion and reproductive health being debated in the country “is unconstitutional.”
At the close of a summer university course, the cardinal said, “My personal opinion, outside of my position as a cardinal, bishop or priest, but instead as a lawyer who has studied the law for years, is that it is clearly unconstitutional.” His comments came in response to the Spanish Justice Department which has not reached a consensus on the constitutionality of the proposed reform.
Cardinal Rouco referred to a review of the law by conservative jurists who argue that it violates the constitution, and to a report by a Justice department study commission that supported the reform but was not able to muster a majority vote in favor of the new law.
Vatican City, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian mountain town near the chalet where Pope Benedict is spending his vacation has unanimously decided to make him an honorary citizen.
The Holy Father has been staying in Les Combes, which is located in the territory of Introd. The Introd town council voted at a meeting last week to confer honorary citizenship on him.
Osvaldo Naudin, mayor of Introd, announced the decision today and explained that the citizenship would be bestowed on Benedict XVI this winter in Rome. It will most likely take place in December when a delegation from Introd makes a traditional visit to the Vatican to wish the Pope a Merry Christmas.
Pope Benedict has spent his July holiday in the vicinity of Introd on three occasions, in 2005, 2006 and 2009, while the town has hosted vacationing Pontiffs on a total of 13 occasions. Benedict will leave the alpine chalet in Les Combes for his summer residence at Castelgondolfo tomorrow.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City said this week that a Facebook page supposedly created by Cardinal Norberto Rivera is the work of an anonymous person who is claiming to be the cardinal.
“Someone with perverse and evil intentions has usurped his name for the sole purpose of harming his reputation and lashing out against the Catholic Church,” the archdiocese said. It called on authorities to investigate the incident and in conformity with the law file charges against those responsible.
“As the Holy Father Benedict XVI has said repeatedly, the Catholic Church will always support social communications and these technologies that constitute useful tools for all humanity; however, she will condemn their use for evil ends that endanger or go against the dignity of the person,” the archdiocese stated.
“Likewise, we respectfully ask those who control the content on Facebook to erase this profile, as it is a violation of several of our laws,” it said.
The false profile of Cardinal Rivera portrays him as a friend of controversial celebrities and political groups.
Barcelona, Spain, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - The group known as “La Gallinaire” has claimed responsibility for the vandalizing the walls of some 20 churches in Barcelona with slogans such as “The Church Stinks,” “Revolution,” and “Stop Clerical Sex Abuse.”
The radical group released a statement on Sunday claiming responsibility for the vandalism and saying their actions were part of the “continuing struggle” which began with what is known in Spain as the “Tragic Week” of 1909.
The Archdiocese of Barcelona lamented recent acts of vandalism and recalled that the right to freedom of religion and worship is a fundamental right protected by the Spanish Constitution.
Police are investigating the incidents but no arrests have been made as of yet.
In July of 1909 protests erupted in Barcelona and the surrounding cities over the government’s plan to call up reservists for Spain’s military conflict in Morocco, resulting in dozens of deaths and church burnings. The clashes between the mainly blue collar workers and the army were fomented by several socialist and anarchist groups.
Vatican City, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI plans to attend the public exposition of the Shroud of Turin in 2010, although no exact date has been set.
Speaking on Vatican Radio, Father Lombardi said the Pope met with Cardinal Severino Poletto, Archbishop of Turin, for lunch in Aosta where he is vacationing. The two discussed the public showing of the Shroud which will take place in the spring of 2010.
“Naturally, Cardinal Poletto informed the Pope about preparations for the event and once again invited him to attend. As he has mentioned in the past when speaking about the public showing, the Pope confirmed his intention to travel to Turin for the occasion, although the date still needs to be determined,” Father Lombardi stated.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - Moral crisis in society must be cured by the family, archbishop says
Archbishop Julian Barrio of Santiago, Spain praised the values of family, respect for life and human dignity this past Saturday as ways to overcome the “grave consequences” of an “anthropological and moral” crisis in society.
On the Feast of St. James, Archbishop Barrio urged Spaniards to “recognize the transcendent meaning of the person” in “today’s difficult situations.” He also denounced abortion and euthanasia, saying “respect for life from conception to natural death is fundamental.”
In this sense, he continued, the “anthropological and moral” crisis affecting society is spreading the idea that “everything goes” and that it is okay to “experiment with the person in the different dimensions of his existence.”
“Man has inherent dignity and cannot be considered as an end for someone else,” he stressed.
The archbishop called for the building up of “a society in which the moral and spiritual principles that guarantee the sacred respect for the person are lived out.”
Burgos, Spain, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - Police in Burgos, Spain have detained a man who is being charged with stealing a tabernacle from a local church.
Europa Press reports that the 43 year-old man showed up at the parish rectory early in the morning asking the pastor for money. After he was turned away he angrily entered the church and grabbed the wooden tabernacle from one of the chapels and made off with it.
He was arrested by police shortly after, and the tabernacle was found a few hours later in a park adjacent to the parish.
Dong Hoi, Vietnam, Jul 28, 2009 (CNA) - Two priests were hospitalized in the central Vietnamese coastal city of Dong Hoi after being beaten brutally by plain-clothed police and a gang employed by the local government. One of the priests, who is now comatose, was thrown from the second floor of the hospital where he was visiting the first victim.
On Sunday, Fr. Paul Nguyen Dinh Phu, parish priest of Du Loc, was attacked by a group of plain-clothed police and thugs when he was travelling to Tam Toa parish to concelebrate morning Mass with five other priests of Trooc Deanery.
At 7 a.m. that morning, 170 priests and 420 women religious led hundreds of thousands of Catholics from the Diocese of Vinh and neighboring dioceses in peaceful protests throughout Vinh's 19 deaneries. The protesters were demanding justice for victims assaulted by police on July 20 as they were trying to rebuild their place of worship at Tam Toa parish. Seven of the Catholics arrested by the police on July 20 remain in custody.
On their way to protest at Tam Toa with the Trooc Deanery on Sunday, three Catholic women were beaten by a group of men. Fr. Paul Nguyen reported that he tried to intervene to rescue the women.
“Before I could open my mouth, they left the women and turned on me as they recognized me as a Catholic priest,” he said. “They kicked me brutally.”
“There were at least 30 police in full uniform standing nearby,” the priest added, but “they looked indifferently at the attack.”
The gang kicked Fr. Paul Nguyen in his ribs, in his face, and on his head until a group of Catholics managed to rescue him and take him to a nearby hospital.
The gang returned to the hospital with more people and more weapons. They have since surrounded the hospital, Fr. An Dang says.
The Bishop of Vinh’s office made an urgent complaint to the People’s Committee of Quang Binh and asked Fr. Peter Nguyen The Binh, pastor of the close by parish Ha Loi, to accompany Tran Cong Thuat, Deputy Governor of Quangh Bin, to visit the injured priest.
Fr. An Dang tells CNA that during the visit to the hospital, Thuat secretly withdrew. When he left, the gang jumped on Fr. Peter Nguyen and cruelly beat him before throwing him from the second floor of the hospital.
Fr. Peter Nguyen is presently in critical condition in a coma and is not responsive.