Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 8, 2009 (CNA) - Following the opening sessions of the International Marian Congress in Phoenix, Arizona, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut and Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus William Lori led participants in a Marian meditation, reflecting on how Mary continues visit her children and bring Christ to them today, as she did when she appeared to Juan Diego in 1531.
Bishop Lori began by recalling the Visitation saying that “from the very moment the Virgin Mary learned that her cousin, Elizabeth, was with child, Mary hastened through the hill country to be with her.”
While Mary visits her children constantly, there are other times when, “in God’s providential love, her presence is seen and felt,” recalled Bishop Lori before mentioning Marian apparitions in Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal.
“Yet it was Mary’s visitation to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill that, in many ways, was most like her original visit to Elizabeth,” he explained. “Just as Mary had journeyed through the hill country to see Elizabeth, so now she journeyed through the hill country of Mexico to see a poor campesino of no standing. Like Eliazbeth, her aged cousin who was with child, Juan Diego also needed help, not only because he was poor but indeed because his uncle was gravely ill.”
Bishop Lori also explained that Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego brought Jesus to the Americas.
“As in the original visitation, Mary appears to Juan Diego bearing a child in her womb. She has come to bring the Lord Jesus not merely to a single dwelling but indeed to the Americas – thus giving birth to a new world of faith. In bringing Jesus to the Americas she gave birth to a new people, indeed a new race called ‘la raza mestiza’ – weaving together the Spanish and Indian cultures.”
“She appears in this form before this new race was widespread and in this way Our Lady of Guadalupe made the faith accessible both to the Spanish in the colonies and to the natives. After her visitation, the Americas were finally evangelized, as massive numbers of people came to know Christ and became member of His Body the Church.”
“Now Mary has visited us again,” said Bishop Lori, bringing his presentation to a close. “She comes to us here as a loving mother, seeking to bring forth Christ in us, seeking to make us his agents of evangelization, seeking to make us ardent defenders of life, seeking to draw us ever more deeply into the orbit of Trinitarian love.”
The Marian Congress began on August 6 and will run until August 8. It is being sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Diocese of Phoenix, the Archdiocese of Mexico City and the Institute of Guadalupan Studies.
Richmond, Va., Aug 8, 2009 (CNA) - Civil rights and religious freedom groups are criticizing the Rappahannock Regional Jail in northern Virginia, charging that the jail illegally censored the letters a Christian mother sent to her jailed son for being “too religious.” Jail authorities cut out so many Bible passages that her letters resembled “Swiss cheese,” the groups said.
The letters of inmate mother Anna Williams were stamped for censorship with the words “Religious Material from Home,” a press release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports. On at least one occasion, all that was left of a three-page letter was its salutation, its first paragraph, and its signature “Love, Mom.”
A July 9 letter from civil and religious liberty groups to the jail’s superintendent, Joseph Higgs, Jr., protested the alleged censorship.
“Ms. Williams, a devout Christian, wanted to support her son spiritually during his confinement at the Jail by sending him religious language, including passages from the Bible,” the letter reports.
“Rather than delivering these letters to Ms. Williams’ son, the Jail expurgated the religious material, citing variously as the reason for censorship ‘Internet Pages’ and ‘Religious Material from Home.’
“Such censorship destroyed the religious messages Ms. Williams sought to convey to her son and reduced her letters to something resembling Swiss cheese. Using scissors or a hobby knife, Jail officials literally cut the religious portions out of Ms. Williams’ letters and delivered only the snippets that did not quote the Bible.”
Sources for the censored passages included the Book of Proverbs, the Book of James and the Book of Matthew. Jail officials also refused to deliver a Christian article titled “Coping with Loneliness.”
The censored portions of the letters were placed in the “personal property” of Williams’ son and were not given to him until he was transferred out of the jail.
“Even the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky had ready access to Scripture while incarcerated in a Siberian prison camp in tsarist Russia,” the letter to jail officials said.
The letter to the superintendent was signed by officials from the Becket Fund, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and several local and national American Civil Liberties Union officials.
The letter, expressing hope that the issue could be resolved “without resort to litigation,” requested revisions to jail policy and written guarantees that Biblical passages in letters to detainees would not be censored.
Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund, was a signatory to the letter.
“The citizens of Rappahannock County should be alarmed that their government has decided to join North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in treating the Bible as dangerous contraband,” he said in a statement.
“Although the Bible says, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ prison authorities shouldn't treat the Bible as a security risk,” he added. “In censoring this mother's letters, the prison violated the First Amendment rights of both the prisoner and his mother.”
Kristina A. Arriaga, communications director with the Becket Fund, in a Friday e-mail told CNA that the jail superintendent has said he will start an investigation.
Prison authorities may legitimately censor writings that affect prison security, but U.S. courts have ruled that inmates may have access to religious materials.
Washington D.C., Aug 8, 2009 (CNA) - Tom Grenchik, director of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, has said that mandated abortion health care coverage and funding is “a line we can never cross,” charging that some U.S. leaders are threatening health care reform by forcing Americans to accept such mandates in proposed reform bills.
Writing in a Friday column on the U.S. bishops’ web site, Grenchik said that health care proposals need to be examined during the congressional recess to see how well they provide affordable quality health care and how they impact immigrants and the poor.
“But one thing is certain,” he emphasized. “The bills approved so far by House and Senate committees include mandated abortion coverage and abortion funding, and that is a line we can never cross.”
He also noted that amendments to exclude abortion from health care legislation have been defeated.
Reporting that abortion was not specifically mentioned in draft health care bills until recently, he recalled that Medicaid also did not mention abortion but nonetheless funded 300,000 abortions per year in the 1970s until the Hyde Amendment forbade such funding.
Grenchik quoted Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy’s July 17 comments to Congress, in which the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Rights said the bishops looked forward to working with congressional leaders to reform health care “in a manner that offers accessible, affordable and quality health care that protects and respects the life and dignity of all people from conception until natural death.”
Bishop Murphy added: “no health care reform plan should compel us or others to pay for the destruction of human life, whether through government funding or mandatory coverage of abortion.”
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a July 29 letter to the U.S. House’s Energy and Commerce Committee, declared that “much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda” or for reversing “longstanding” policies against federal abortion mandates.
Grenchik also highlighted a postcard campaign in which millions of American Catholics sent postcards asking Congress to “retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.” He said that Congressmen need to be reminded of this message “at the local level.”
“Support genuine health care reform that respects the life and dignity of all,” he urged. “A fair and just health care reform bill must exclude mandated coverage for abortion, and uphold longstanding laws that restrict abortion funding and protect conscience rights.”
“Now is the time to take action,” Grenchik said, urging congressional members be contacted through e-mail, phone or fax. He also encouraged pro-lifers to attend local town hall meetings.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat has created a Health Care Reform Action Alert with more information and an e-mail form at http://www.usccb.org/prolife.