Archive of August 12, 2009

Twenty thousand Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe in Phoenix

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - About 20,000 Phoenix-area Catholics came together on Saturday afternoon to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe and pray the Rosary to her in a variety of languages.

The event, held at Arena, featured many international performers. Alexander Acha, the Irish singer Dana, and Filippa Giordano performed musical tributes to Our Lady. Speakers included actor Eduardo Verástegui, Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

“We might think of Hispanics in the Church in terms of the mythical phoenix,” Anderson told the crowd.  “Nearly 500 years after Our Lady of Guadalupe’s transformation of this hemisphere, our Hispanic brothers and sisters represent the rebirth of Catholicism in the United States.”

“Our Lady of Guadalupe points us to her son, but she also points us to unity in her son and for Catholics this unity must transcend borders,” he continued.

The festival also presented the only known relic of the tilma, a cloak on which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared in 1531. The relic was displayed at Phoenix’s Cathedral of Sts. Simon and Jude on Sunday. It attracted thousands who came to venerate it.

The full tilma itself is in Mexico City, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the indigenous Mexican villager St. Juan Diego and left her image on his cloak. The tilma is at the center of one of the most visited shrines in the world.

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Religious groups consider merits, flaws of U.S. health care reform proposals

Washington D.C., Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to some Americans’ displays of vocal opposition to health care legislation, a coalition of religious leaders has launched a national campaign for health care reform, characterizing the matter as a “fundamental religious issue.” However, the Catholic Medical Association severely criticizes the proposal.

The coalition supporting the proposed reform, “40 Days for Health Reform,” includes a television commercial and has planned a conference call with President Barack Obama on August 19. Proposing to hold dozens of prayer vigils, rallies and meetings with politicians from August 11 to September 18, the coalition also requests that clergy preach on health care reform during the last weekend of August.

Its backers include Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders. The coalition was organized by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Sojourners, Faith in Public Life, Faithful America, and the PICO National Network.

Coalition members say they see too many people in their pews who struggle with being uninsured or underinsured due to job losses, pre-existing conditions and other factors beyond their control.

Rev. John Hay, an Indianapolis pastor featured in the new commercial, explained that his parishioners lived within walking distance of major hospitals but had to put off serious health problems until they became chronic.

“This is no way for the most blessed country in the world to treat its most vulnerable citizens,” he commented. “This is as much a crisis of faith as it is a crisis of health care.”

"We've come together across the spectrum, across party and political lines, to say that coverage with inclusive, acceptable, affordable health care for all of God's children is for us a moral imperative and a religious issue," said Evangelical Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners and moderator of several events at the Democratic National Convention’s Faith Caucus.

"All of God's children need to be covered," he commented.

According to the Religion News Service, Wallis and other participants in the coalition have agreed not to allow “heated differences” over abortion to “sabotage” a health care reform bill so long as the legislation prohibits public funding for the procedure and allows conscience protections for pro-life health care workers.

The Catholic Medical Association issued its own statement on health care reform on July 29, saying it is “particularly concerned” about respect for the conscience rights of health-care providers and any mandates to finance and provide abortion.

CMA’s executive director, John F. Brehany, said that conscience rights are not adequately addressed in any current legislation. He reported that the House Tri-Committee bill on the issue does not even mention the topic and a relevant amendment was defeated.

“This issue is very timely, since the department of Health and Human Services canceled a Conscience Protection Rule earlier this year and has not announced what will replace it,” Brehany said.

“Coercing health-care providers to deny their deepest values and ethical commitment to patients’ well-being will harm the medical profession and undermine trust in the provider-patient relationship,” he continued, noting that President Barack Obama has promised a “robust conscience clause.”

CMA President Louis C. Breschi, M.D., expressed alarm that abortion was not explicitly excluded from health care requirements.

“Few people realize that, as things stand, abortion could be a required benefit in all health insurance plans, and it would be subsidized not only in health-care premiums, but also through taxation. This unjust mandate must be excluded,” Breschi said.

The CMA has also expressed concern about “significant shortcomings” in the economic and clinical aspects of proposed legislation, saying that the proposals do not reduce long-term costs but increase them. It also charges that the proposals rely on “heavy-handed government control” antithetical to the rights of patients and physicians.

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U.S. bishops release new materials for Respect Life Sunday 2009

Washington D.C., Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - In preparation for Respect Life Sunday, the U.S. Catholic bishops have made available the 2009-2010 Respect Life Program to help address a variety of pro-life concerns.

This year’s Respect Life Sunday, which will take place on October 4, has as its theme “Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile,” based on comments in a January 2007 homily of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Respect Life flyer explores this theme and provides a timeline of fetal development showing the humanity of unborn children.

Themes addressed in this year’s program include the building of a culture of life and the essence of human dignity. Topics include assisted suicide, contraception, infertility, and same-sex “marriage.”

Printed pamphlets containing Respect Life articles are available on the website of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities and on a CD included in each packet. The CD also contains a poster and a flyer, as well as a liturgy guide, program models, memorable pro-life quotations and more in both English and Spanish.

This year’s liturgy guide offers Intercessions for Life and preaching reflections for both Respect Life Sunday and January 22, the anniversary of the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. It also includes materials for a Litany to Mary, Mother of Life; a Novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe; and a Holy Hour for Life.

The Respect Life Program was begun in 1972 to bring Church teaching on the value and dignity of human life to the Catholic community and the wider public. Respect Life Sunday is observed in almost all of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States.

More information is available at the website of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at

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Pope examines relationship of Mary to priests

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) -

During Wednesday’s general audience in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of there being a “nexus” between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the priesthood. Like St. John, he said, all priests “are called to accept her into their home.”

Pope Benedict pointed out that this nexus is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. “God does not act against our freedom,” he explained. “He needed the yes of his creatures.”

“St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in one of his homilies, explained in dramatic manner this decisive moment of universal history, when heaven, earth and God Himself await this creature’s response,” he added.

“Mary is truly and profoundly involved in the mystery of the Incarnation, of our salvation. … Sacrifice, the priesthood and the Incarnation go together and Mary is at the heart of this mystery,” the Pontiff said.

Pope Benedict also reflected on the tie between priests and Mary.

From the cross, Jesus sees his mother and the beloved apostle, an important individual, but more importantly a prefigurement of loved people and especially all priests.

“The Second Vatican Council invites priests to see Mary as the perfect model of their existence,” the Pope added.

“The Curé d'Ars, who we think of this year especially, loved to repeat that after Jesus Christ gave us everything he could give, he wanted to make us heirs of what was most precious to him, his holy mother,” the Pope continued. “This applies to all Christians, but especially for priests.”

"Every priest can and should truly feel himself to be the son of this most holy and most humble mother," he said.

The Holy Father concluded by expressing his closeness to the people of Taiwan, China, Philippines and Japan, who were recently hit by a typhoon. “I call on everyone to pray for them and for those who lost their lives. I hope that the relief of solidarity and the help of material aid will not be lacking.”

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Pope Benedict to meet with 'School Circle,’ discuss Church’s mission

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - In keeping with a custom he created when he was a university professor, Pope Benedict XVI is gathering some of his former students for his annual "Ratzinger School Circle." The group will meet at Castel Gandolfo between August 27 and 30 to discuss issues of theological and cultural interest.

Before being elected Pontiff, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held annual summer meetings with some of his former students from the theology departments of Tubingen and Ratisbona. Among the students convened by then Cardinal Ratzinger were important theologians, such as Cardinal Cristoph Schonborn of Vienna, who was also one of the editors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Since 2005, the Pope has kept the tradition of meeting with the “Ratzinger Schulerkreis,” with discussions in previous years focusing on issues such as evolution and Islam.

This year the group will focus on the “Mission of the Church,” a topic that is central in the reflections of Ratzinger the theologian.

The only former student of Joseph Ratzinger in the United States who regularly attends the meetings is Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, the editor of Ignatius Press. "I am planning to attend," Fr. Fessio told CNA.

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Reaction against murder of Christians increases chance of changes to Pakistani law

Lahore, Pakistan, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - Unprecedented public indignation over the wave of attacks in Pakistan that have left eight Christians dead has led to the hope that changes in country’s laws will help protect minority groups.

The Pakistani media has extensively covered the recent killings in the city of Gojra and the resulting protests, strikes, prayer vigils and visits by the country’s leaders. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani recently visited the area, where he announced a review of Pakistan’s laws on religious minorities.

Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, told Aid to the Church in Need that this was a rare opportunity for the Pakistani government to introduce changes into the law.

“This is exactly the right time for the government to review the laws on blasphemy.  At any other time there would have been a reaction against it, arguing that the honor of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed needs to be protected, but now the people can see very clearly the problems that these laws are causing, especially if they are misused,” he said.

However, he added, changing the law is not enough.  “We need a radical change of attitudes so that people no longer emotionally react when they feel their religion is not being respected.”  “What we have seen in recent days could lead people to think differently,” he said.

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DVDs published to help the faithful learn the 1962 Latin Mass

Rome, Italy, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was recently incorporated into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has announced the publication of two DVDs to help “priests and the community” celebrate Mass according to the extraordinary form of the Latin Rite.

The two DVDs include an entire Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos—until recently the president of the Commission—at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in 2003.

The discs also feature segments explaining in detail the “gestures and rubrics, from the preparatio ad missam (preparation before Mass) to the act of thanksgiving in the sacristy.”

The video is available in four languages (Italian, English, Spanish and French) and is intended to be the “first concrete contribution of the Holy See for the implementation of the Pope’s wishes contained in Summorum Pontificum.” The Motu Propio “Summorum Pontificum,” which was released in July of 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, granted universal permission to the faithful to celebrate the Tridentine Mass adapted by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

The Commission has not yet announced where or how the DVDs can be purchased.

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Caritas in Veritate is guide for redefining world economy, says bank president

Rome, Italy, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - The president of Etica Bank in Italy, Fabio Salviato, said this week that the new encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI, “Caritas in Veritate,” is a guide for redefining the world economic system.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the 51 year-old executive and author said the encyclical is a “guide that can enlighten us in this phase of individualization of a new economic and financial system.”

He noted that the new encyclical calls for “a cultural change founded upon the centrality of the person.”

“By responding to the needs of the person, fighting against poverty, and respecting the environment a redefinition of the economical financial system will emerge,” he added.

“I believe the Holy Father has truly offered us not only a light but also a great gift, a guide for economic leaders,” Salviato continued.  “And not only for them but for all those who bear responsibility in the world of politics, finance and civil society.  It is a cultural point of reference and directory, of almost a technical nature, on how to build, or rebuild, the new system after this crisis and these difficulties,” he said.

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Pope reminds Ecuadorans to rely on God in building their society

Quito, Ecuador, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - In a telegram sent to Archbishop Raul Vela Chiriboga of Quito, Pope Benedict XVI joined in Ecuador’s bicentennial celebrations and stressed that without God it is not possible to build the nation’s future.

In a telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope sent special greetings to the people of Ecuador and offered his prayers that “the Lord would abundantly pour out the gifts of his grace upon all the sons and daughters of this noble land” as they strive to build a more just and fraternal society.

Faced with the enormous task before them, the Pope encouraged Ecuadorans “to be sustained by faith in divine assistance, since man is not capable of managing his own future without relying upon those dimensions that have their beginning and fulfillment in God.”

Invoking the special protection of Our Lady of the Presentation of Quinche, the patroness of Ecuador, the Pontiff concluded his message imparting his Apostolic Blessing upon all Ecuadorans.

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Two imprisoned Cuban dissidents being subjected to cruel treatment

Havana, Cuba, Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - Two Cuban prisoners who are members of the Christian Liberation Movement are facing “torture and systematic ruthless treatment” at a provincial prison after they declared a hunger strike to protest abuses by the State Security and prison guards.

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas, Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, said in an August 11 message sent from Havana that prisoners in the provincial prison of Las Tunas report the “grave situation” of Alfredo Domínguez Batista and José Daniel Ferrer, who declared the hunger strike.

“José Daniel Ferrer has been confined to a cell where he must sleep on the floor and where rats constantly appear out of the hole that serves as his bathroom. It is difficult to imagine a cell with crueler conditions,” Payá related.

Alfredo Domínguez has been sent to a “Dantesque” place of punishment known as “Potosí,” far away from the prison. He reportedly was confined without clothes in another cage called the “punishment cell,” where mosquitoes feed on his unprotected body.

Guards at the prison have provoked the prisoners with taunts and tricks about visits. Some have lied to the prisoners’ families when they came to the prison to ask about their loved ones.

“This torturous regimen is destroying these peaceful prisoners, who are organizers of the Varela Project,” reported Payá.

The Varela Project is a democratic Cuban movement which seeks greater religious and political freedoms for the country.

Payá said it was urgent that governments and organizations around the world, including Amnesty International, protest and take action to stop this “torture and systematic ruthless treatment” of the prisoners.

“While the minutes go by, they suffer horribly in both body and mind from the inhumane conditions to which the government of Cuba subjects them,” his message concluded.

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Health care bills that fund abortion are ‘seriously deficient,’ Cardinal Rigali says

Washington D.C., Aug 12, 2009 (CNA) - While expressing support for some kind of health care reform, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat on Pro-Life Activities, says the present reform proposal is “seriously deficient” because it bypasses restrictions on the federal funding of abortion and allows federal officials to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit.

Writing in an August 11 letter to each member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Cardinal Rigali noted that the U.S. Catholic bishops view health care as a basic human right. They have long supported health care reform that “respects human life and dignity from conception to natural death” and provides access to quality health care for all, especially immigrants and the poor.

Cardinal Rigali said his present letter concerned the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200) and related legislation, emphasizing that respect for human life and the rights of conscience is a “fundamental requirement.”

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding policies against federal funding and mandated coverage of abortion,” the cardinal wrote, echoing his July 29 letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“In this sense we urge you to make this legislation ‘abortion neutral,’ by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.”

He described the proposed health care act as “seriously deficient” in that it delegates to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the power to make unlimited abortion a mandated benefit in the health insurance plan the government will manage.

“This would be a radical change: Federal law has long excluded most abortions from federal employees’ health benefits packages, and no federal health program mandates coverage of elective abortions,” he pointed out.

Further, federal funds authorized by the proposed legislation do not pass through the Department of Labor or the HHS appropriations bill, and so are not covered by the Hyde Amendment restricting federal funding for abortions and health benefits package that include abortion.

According to Cardinal Rigali, the Capps Amendment, which was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, created a “legal fiction” and a “paper separation” between federal funding and abortion. The proposal uses federal funds to subsidize the public health plan and private plans that include abortion on demand. It requires a premium to cover “all abortions beyond those eligible for federal funds under the current Hyde Amendment.”

The claim that federal taxpayer funds do not support abortion in the health care proposal is an “illusion,” Cardinal Rigali said.

“Funds paid into these plans are fungible, and federal taxpayer funds will subsidize the operating budget and provider networks that expand access to abortions,” he continued, warning that those who must purchase the public health plan will be “forced by the federal government to pay directly and specifically for abortion coverage.”

“Government will force low-income Americans to subsidize abortions for others (and abortion coverage for themselves) even if they find abortion morally abhorrent,” the cardinal alerted the representatives, saying this is the opposite of current policy.

“Most Americans do not want abortion in their health coverage, and most consider themselves ‘pro-life,’ with a stronger majority among low-income Americans,” he said.

In addition to his criticisms, the cardinal described the “helpful improvements” of amendments that ensure the Act will not pre-empt state laws regulating abortion and existing federal conscience rights on abortion. He also praised the Stupak/Pitts Amendment which prohibited federally-funded governmental bodies from discriminating against providers and insurers who decline involvement in abortion.

Cardinal Rigali said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that “needed health reform” is not undermined by abandoning policies against abortion funding and conscience protections. He urged Congressmen to help ensure that “unacceptable features” are absent from any legislation that receives a full House vote.

“By your actions on these issues, you can advance urgently needed health care reform that will truly serve the poor and needy and uphold the dignity of all,” his letter concluded.

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