Amsterdam, Netherlands, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - The ship “Aurora,” sponsored by the abortion organization “Women on Waves,” which provides abortions in international waters off countries where the practice is illegal, will remain docked due to changes in Dutch law.
The Aurora, under the direction of 43 year-old feminist Rebecca Gomperts, was about to set out on a new voyage, when the Dutch Congress passed a law modifying the conditions under which a vessel may sail under the country’s flag.
The abortion ship had been sailing under the Dutch flag as it anchored off the coast of countries where abortion was illegal, in order to offer the abortion drug RU-486 to women.
Gomperts, who also belongs to Greenpeace, recently announced that a new voyage to the coasts of Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Nicaragua would have to be suspended due the change in Dutch law that vessels involved in activities that violate the laws of other countries could no longer fly the country’s flag.
Without the flag, the ship no longer has immunity and could therefore be seized by the military or coast guard forces of the country in question.
Despite a report in the British daily, “The Independent,” officials at the South American offices of Greenpeace have denied any kind of relationship with Women on Waves and said their organization “is devoted to environmental issues, and therefore the termination of pregnancies is not a part of our campaigns.”
Tegucigalpa, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - Speaking on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa emphatically denied that the Church in Honduras has taken sides in the dispute between deposed President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government, rather, the Church supports reconciliation.
“The Church cannot align herself with one side in Honduras because the only thing she seeks is reconciliation, peace, and above all, understanding through dialogue,” the cardinal said.
In his call for a peaceful understanding between all parties, the cardinal said that “those who engage in violence will perish in violence. For this reason, we call on all Hondurans to seek unity in that which is essential.”
“Political parties can be legitimate, they can have different points of view, but in no way does this justify violating the law,” the cardinal reminded. “If we look back at what happened, we will discover the law was not respected because the highest authority was the first to violate it.”
Paris, France, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - As part of the International Marian Festival that will take place in Paray le Monial, France, August 14-19, the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary will be prayed on five of the the world’s continents beginning at 5 p.m. (Paris time) on Sunday, August 16.
According to a press release, the Rosary will be prayed “with the Word of God, assisted by meditations from John Paul II at the time of his arrival in France” in 1986, when he consecrated the world to the Virgin Mary.
“John Paul II will entrust our important prayer intentions to the intercession of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary close to the Father,” organizers said.
The purpose of the worldwide Rosary will be “to pray for peace, for the Church, for France, for the world and for the mission of each one of us in particular.”
Those who wish to join in the prayer should note that 5:00pm Paris time is 11:00 a.m. Eastern time and 8:00 a.m. Pacific. More information can be found at: http://www.festivalmarial.com
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) -
The Fifth World Congress of Families began in Amsterdam today, under the theme, “Modern Families: Traditional Values.” In his augural address, the under secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Carlos Simon Vasquez, said only the family “can guarantee an authentic education in values.”
Speaking on behalf of Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, the president of the dicastery, Bishop Vasquez said family associations are an urgent need today, in order to promote the true identity of the family.
The Church cannot put families on the same plane as the individual or the State, he stated. “The natural family, which is the source and treasure of society, must be sustained at every level,” he said.
Bishop Vasquez also recalled several passages from Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” underscoring that only the family “can guarantee an authentic education in human values, because it ensures altruism and temporal continuity, which are essential in education.”
“Only the vocation to paternity and maternity can transmit a responsible education in responsible procreation, which brings with it the necessary union between personal and social ethics through a harmonious existence that only the family can offer,” he added.
Moreover, only the family “can serve as a counterpoint to the current global economic crisis, because at its center it is a source of social solidarity and civil progress,” the bishop said.
The World Congress of Families is an international pro-family network of organizations, experts and people of good will from more than 60 countries whose purpose is to defend the importance of the family as a social institution. It was founded in 1997 by The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society in Rockford, Illinois. Previous sessions of the congress were held in Prague (1997), Geneva (1999), Mexico City (2004) and Warsaw (2007).
Knoxville, Tenn., Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - Opening the diocese’s fourth Pregnancy Help Center was a perfect example of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee’s mission: addressing the unmet needs of the most vulnerable.
"This is an unmet need," said Father Ragan Schriver, the agency’s executive director, during the July 2 dedication of the Campbell County center. "And she’s responding to it," he added, referring to Sandi Davidson, program manager for CCET’s Pregnancy Services, which also maintains a pregnancy help center in Chattanooga and two in Knoxville.
About two dozen volunteers and friends attended the dedication ceremony at the center, located in the old West End School building at 250 W. Beech St. in LaFollette.
"One of the significant things we do consistently throughout our area is provide services to people who are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and people who are new parents who didn’t know they were going to be parents," said Father Schriver.
"We feel the most important thing we can do is try to be there for people who are struggling, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this new center."
He asked those gathered to "give a big hand" to Mrs. Davidson and to volunteer coordinator Jeanne Smith.
"What a gift you are to our agency," he said, in reference to Mrs. Davidson, then thanked Mrs. Smith "who has done so much to coordinate our day today and to help put this together."
"The greatest thing we can do is honor a place like this, a place of service, by calling upon the Lord to send his Spirit upon this center to make it a missionary place," said Father Schriver.
Like CCET’s other Pregnancy Help Centers, the LaFollette facility is available to pregnant women and new mothers of all ages who need assistance. There they can find a listening ear, baby and maternity clothes, diapers, formula, referrals to other community services, and more.
The local need is great, Mrs. Davidson said. Campbell County High School has the highest percentage of pregnant students among East Tennessee secondary schools, according to the Florence Crittenton Agency. And Campbell County as a whole ranks No. 23 of the state’s 95 counties in the pregnancy rate of girls and women ages 10 through 19.
"Father Joe Campbell [the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in LaFollette] called me and said he needed help with an adoption, and the mother was in jail. So I came up, and we got to talking, and there’s nothing here for pregnant women. That got the ball rolling, and he put me in contact with people in the community," Mrs. Davidson said.
"It just snowballed from there. It was amazing."
Although Father Campbell had originally offered space for the center at his rectory, she said the agency "didn’t want anybody to get the impression that we were just Catholic."
Mrs. Davidson said Catholic Charities soon learned that the former school building, with a more central location, had space available—and LaFollette mayor Mike Stanfield invited the center to locate there.
"I just love the process," said Mrs. Davidson. "You can see how God puts everything in place for you to complete his mission."
The Lord’s work is being accomplished with a whole lot of local helpers. "We got a huge grant from the LaFollette Medical Foundation, and that’s why we’re able to offer brand-new baby items," she said. "St. Mary’s Hospital gave us funds, and the Campbell County Commissioners are paying our rent."
Mrs. Davidson also mentioned another grant that "we’re not advertising" but that is allowing the purchase of other essential supplies.
A number of churches in the community are on board as well.
"Baptist, United Methodist, Community Hope Church—it doesn’t matter what religion you are," she said. "Everyone has the same goal: to save babies, help babies, and help women."
A member of LaFollette United Methodist Church, Mrs. Smith said the weak economy is increasing local need for the center—"especially for women whose husband or boyfriend is out of work, and they can’t afford to buy things."
"Maternity clothes, baby items, diapers—those things cost so much," she said. "This has really filled a gap. We have formula if people need it. If they need jobs, we can refer them to the Job Center, if they need help with food or other needs, we have resources and can take care of those needs. We have counseling if they need it."
Since early April, when the center opened its doors, more than 50 women have already come for help. About half are pregnant and half are new mothers, said Mrs. Smith.
She said her own church community has been "very supportive" and recently held a baby-bottle drive that raised "quite a bit of money to help start the program."
Working for the center has been very rewarding, she said. "It’s a great opportunity for me to feel like I’m giving back a little."
Six volunteers, Mrs. Smith, and an intern staff the facility, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
To reach Pregnancy Services, call 877-990-4673. CCET’s Pregnancy Help Centers provide pregnancy testing and education, referral services, adoption help, mentoring, and post-abortion healing and recovery.
Printed with permission from The East Tennessee Catholic, newspaper from the Diocese of Knoxville.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - Despite a widely circulated threat of an imminent government crackdown, hundreds of thousands of Catholics from the Diocese of Vinh held massive protests on Saturday night. They demanded the immediate release of three Catholics detained for the past few weeks, following an incident at Tam Toa parish.
On July 20, Vietnamese police brutally beat hundreds of Catholics who were erecting a cross and building an altar on the ground of Tam Toa church, which collapsed during the Vietnam War after a U.S. air raid. Vietnamese authorities had claimed the ruined building for the centuries-old parish as a war memorial.
In the aftermath of the incident, all 178 parishes of the Diocese of Vinh, which have about 500,000 Catholics, held simultaneous protests and candlelight processions on Saturday. The protests this past weekend mark the third time that the vigils and marches have been held across the country in recent weeks.
“The protestors marched on the streets in seas of lights, receiving applause from bystanders standing on sidewalks who looked up to them with eyes widened in admiration for their courage to stand up against the tyrannous regime,” Sr. Emily Nguyen told CNA.
Protesters gathered at local churches holding placards. Some placards accused the government of ongoing persecution against Catholics, while others demanded the return of Church and individual properties seized by police and still others demanded an end to the state media’s distortion of truth, defamation of religion, and stirring up of hatred between Catholics and non-Catholics.
Other diocese held candlelight vigils as a show of solidarity with victims of police and government-backed gangs. On Saturday night 3,000 Catholics joined in a candlelight vigil at Thai Ha Church in Hanoi. About 2,500 Catholics in Saigon joined another vigil at Saigon Redemptorist Monastery.
Government authorities in the Diocese of Vinh are rumored to be seeking tougher measures to deal with the Catholics’ ongoing protests. Disaffected youth, army veterans, and members of the Communist Youth League have supposedly been asked to join paramilitary groups to attack Catholics.
State media campaigns have spread negative reports about Catholics, with some concrete effects, Sr. Emily Nguyen reports. Food stalls along road sides in Quang Binh reportedly have refused to sell food to anyone wearing a Catholic symbol, possibly a result of the provincial government’s policy to isolate Catholics.
The Vietnamese government has not yet agreed to dialogue on issues of controversy. An August 6 statement from Fr. Anthony Pham Dinh Phung, chief secretary of the Diocese of Vinh, said that the provincial government of Quang Binh had asked representatives of the bishop of Vinh to come to Dong Hoi to discuss the Tam Toa church incident. Fr. Anthony Pham has insisted that negotiations be held at the Bishop of Vinh’s office for the safety of the diocese’s representatives.
According to Sr. Emily Nguyen, Quang Binh officials have not replied to the diocese’s statement.
Vatican City, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, said last week that the new digital online technologies must have as their priority, the promotion and defense of the human person as well as the development of real communication, true friendship and honest dialogue.
In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop underscored how the digital world is constantly changing and affecting how human relationships are formed. Amidst this reality it must be recognized that "these technologies are a gift for humanity, but their advantages must be at the service of all human beings and the entire community."
After noting that digital technologies offer "great possibilities and great limits," Archbishop Celli remarked that when Pope Benedict XVI "expresses his positive appreciation of the new technologies, he is not being naïve, as he does not overlook the difficulties and problems these technologies can create."
The archbishop went on to highlight three essential aspects that must be considered with regard to the "culture of communication" and keeping kids safe in the online world. The first aspect is "the value of the human person. The Pope is not naïve about this concept and he knows perfectly well what things circulate in the social networking media," he said.
"The second aspect is dialogue, dialogue between people of different countries, cultures and religions. A dialogue is that is certainly not hiding who we are because that would not be something respectful towards the person with whom we are dialoguing. But it is an attentive and respectful dialogue that sincerely seeks out the truth. I think man can find the fullness of his life knowing that life is not a straight line down which we walk, but rather a continuous journey of seeking what is true, good and beautiful," the archbishop continued.
The third aspect is friendship. Archbishop Celli explained that "in the new vocabulary of the digital networks, this term is easily misused." He added, "Our friendships grow in our daily walk as human beings"
"We cannot trivialize the concept of friendship because it is one of the greatest riches that human beings have."
Sydney, Australia, Aug 10, 2009 (CNA) - The wake of World Youth Day has brought an increase in interest in religious vocations, as demonstrated in the response to Catholic Australia’s National Vocations Awareness Week.
Fr. Michael De Stoop, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Sydney, said in a press release from the archdiocese that there has been a strong response from young people who want to know more about the life of a priest or a religious sister. There have also been inquiries about vocations in married and single life and vocations as a consecrated lay person.
One of the aims of National Awareness Vocations Week was to communicate to young people and their families the joy and deep happiness generated by living a religious life supported by the grace of God, Fr. Michael explained.
Fr. Michael said he believes the increase in interest in the priesthood and religious life is due to both the excitement and renewed faith generated by World Youth Day 2008 and the recent Vocations Expo in Martin Place which was part of the successful Sydney Congress Embracing the New Evangelism (SCENE).
At the July Vocations Expo, many young people filled out cards asking to know more about specific vocations. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia reported more than ten requests from women wanting to know more about becoming a religious sister.
"This is a very big increase when you consider the annual number of those taking solemn vows as religious sisters within the Archdiocese over the past several years has seldom been more than one or two," Fr Michael said.
He suggested that the declining numbers of both priests and religious sisters, evident throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was due to an increasingly secular society. He said he and others in the Church believe this trend is now changing because young people search for a deeper meaning to their lives and turn to their faith to guide and give them sustenance.
The number of trainee priests at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd Homebush as more than tripled in recent years.
"When I entered St Patrick's College at Manly, which was operating in 1994 when I began my training, there were 39 students - and this number was the whole of New South Wales," Fr. Michael reported. "By my second year this number had dropped to 29 and by my third year, was down to just 19."
The Seminary of the Good Shepherd now has 42 seminarians in training for the priesthood not for the whole of New South Wales but for Sydney alone.
"Those from the Dioceses of Broken Bay, Wagga and other areas of NSW now either have their own Seminaries or train in Brisbane or Melbourne," Fr Michael explained.
In April four priests were ordained by Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney. These higher numbers are expected to be repeated over the next several years.
"A religious vocation is a happy and very fulfilling life and filled with joy," Fr Michael added. “While many outside the priesthood or religious orders imagine it is a life of sacrifice. But when you do something out of love it is never a sacrifice."
He said that he has never regretted his decision to become a diocesan priest, saying his vocation is inspiring, rewarding and constantly evolving.
As part of National Vocations Week, parishes and diocese will be provided with extensive resources and information to help those discerning a religious vocation. There will also be religious forums for schools across Australia to help students in school years seven to eleven learn more about life as a priest, religious sister or consecrated layman.
Clergy, vowed religious, consecrated laypersons and seminarians will lead the forums either for the entire school body or for individual classes. They will give individual testimonies about their particular vocations and how they live them out.
Australia’s National Vocations Awareness Week web site is at http://www.vocationcentre.org.au