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Archive of September 4, 2009

U.S. bishops’ Labor Day statement reasserts dignity of work amid economic challenges

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - Writing in their Labor Day Statement, the U.S. bishops have highlighted the dignity of work and “the contributions and rights” of the American worker, the importance of health care reform, and recent collaboration between the Catholic Church, unions, and health care workers.

The statement, dated September 7, was written by Bishop of Rockville Centre William F. Murphy, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The statement, titled “The Value of Work; the Dignity of the Human Person,” also discussed portions of Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical.

Bishop Murphy observed that despite today's economic challenges, the American people remain “fundamentally” optimistic.

“We have an abiding faith in the values that have shaped our nation and an ongoing commitment to work together to address the problems and build on the strengths of who we are,” his statement read, describing this attitude as a mirror of the Christian virtue of hope.

Quoting Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas In Veritate, the statement said that the human person in his or her integrity is the “primary capital” and that decent work “expresses the essential dignity of every man and woman.”

“Pope Benedict renews and reminds us of the Church’s classic support for the right of workers to choose freely to form or join a union or other types of workers’ associations,” Bishop Murphy wrote. “Pope Benedict endorses this and adds to it the responsibility of workers and unions ‘to be open to the new perspectives that are emerging in the world of work.’”

The Labor Day statement also discussed the successful conclusion of negotiations between the the Catholic Health Association (CHA), the AFL/CIO, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). According to the bishop, a “long, candid and constructive” dialogue led to a “significant consensus statement” on how workers in Catholic health care facilities can choose whether or not to be represented by a union.

The document “Respecting the Just Rights of Workers: Guidance and Options for Catholic Health Care and Unions” was a product of the negotiations. Bishop Murphy specifically thanked those involved in its creation.

The bishop also noted that one in six Americans receives care at one of more than 600 Catholic hospitals or 1,200 other Catholic health care ministries.

On the topic of health care reform, the Labor Day statement called health care an “essential good” for every person.

“In a society like ours, no one should lack access to decent health care,” Bishop Murphy said, calling on Catholics to advocate for “truly universal” health care reform that protects both human life at “every stage of development” and the consciences of pro-life health care workers.

The statement also mentioned immigration reform, calling for respect for both legal and illegal immigrants and condemning the denial of health care services to them.

“As we seek to rebuild our economy, produce a better health care system, and improve the immigration system, we are presented with unique opportunities to advance the common good,” Bishop Murphy’s letter concluded. “On this Labor Day, let us remember those without work and without hope.”

“May God bless you this Labor Day and may God watch over and bless those who are committed to the care and protection of all the members of our nation who share the American dream of ‘liberty and justice for all.'”

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Church missions spread in Nigeria despite extremist Muslim harassment

Abuja, Nigeria, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - Despite extremist Muslim opposition, a leading Catholic charity is helping the Church’s mission to indigenous peoples in northwestern Nigeria. Mission programs include literacy classes, well digging, basic health care and education for tribes in the region.

Reports from Kontagora, in Niger state, indicate that militant Muslims have tried to stop new churches from being built and have knocked them down during the night, the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports. The state of Niger also recently adopted Shari'a law, even though the region is made up of equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

ACN has announced it will be giving over $190,000 over three years to help support the missions.

Bishop Timothy Carroll, the Apostolic Vicar of Kontagora, expressed “deep gratitude” to ACN and its donors, saying that without the charity's help the missions could not survive.

Local people are increasingly leaving tribal religions, he reported.

“Our indigenous people are at a crossroads. In the next 10 years or so they will either embrace Christianity or Islam,” Bishop Carroll said. “Thank God a lot of people are turning to the Catholic Church as the gateway to God, and the gateway for progress in literacy, health, water, etc., because we care for both body and soul.”

Literacy courses take place during Nigeria’s January-April dry season so that the farming cycle is not interrupted. Most of the indigenous people are “semi-nomadic” and almost 80 percent illiterate.

Because of this, the bishop said, Catholics place “great importance” on the courses.

Those who complete three years’ study can proceed to courses at the Masuga Language Center. There, they learn to lead prayer services and to teach Bible stories and the basics of the faith.

A Church-organized well-digging team provides services to any communities who request it, regardless of whether or not they are Catholic. The team also teaches the importance of maintaining a well to avoid water contamination, ACN reports.

The bishop expressed hope that some missions will split off into parishes in the next five to ten years.

A shortage of priests is delaying the creation of parishes. Priests are plentiful in eastern and southern Nigeria, where the Church’s presence dates back more than a century. However, 80 percent of the communities in the northwest are less than a decade old.

“Indigenous vocations are the fruit on the tree. Here we are only planting trees at present. Fruit will come in God’s time. Vocations are now starting to come in older parishes,” Bishop Carroll said.

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Catholic newspaper editor who criticized Berlusconi resigns, Cardinal Bagnasco reacts

Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - An intense row between a leading Italian Catholic newspaper and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has led to the resignation of the newspaper’s editor over what he called “diabolically engineered” rumors reported by a newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family.

Dino Boffo, editor of the Italian Catholic Bishops Conference’s daily paper Avvenire, resigned a week after the newspaper Il Giornale reported that Boffo had accepted a plea bargain and paid a fine in a 2004 lawsuit after being accused of harassing a woman.

Il Giornale claimed that Boffo had a homosexual relationship with the woman’s partner. The paper also charged that Boffo was a hypocritical moralist who should not criticize Berlusconi’s lifestyle because of his own past transgressions, Reuters reports.

Boffo, who has edited Avvenire for 15 years, denied the report and said the woman was harassed by someone else using his cell phone.

Berlusconi is presently going through a divorce and has been facing media scrutiny over his relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring model and allegations he spent a night with a call girl in his Rome residence.

According to the London Times, in an August editorial Boffo said that because of Berlusconi’s alleged actions “people have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering that such an arrogant abandonment of a sober style has caused us.”

In response, the prime minister, who is also an influential media business magnate, has said he is “no saint” but has not done anything improper. He has accused left-wing media of mounting a smear campaign against him and has filed lawsuits against Italian, French and Spanish publications for libel.

Reacting to the allegations against him, Boffo wrote a letter to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference, saying, "For seven days my name has been at the center of a storm of gigantic proportions."

"I cannot accept that a war of words that is upsetting my family and increasingly startling Italians ... keeps developing around my name for days to come," he said, according to Reuters.

Boffo said it was now clear that the scandalous accusation against him was “a colossal fictional set-up which was diabolically engineered.”

Prosecutors in the harassment case against Boffo denied that any court document contained references to any sexual relationships. They said they did not investigate the possibility of a third person using a cell phone in the harassment case because they did not think it was credible.

The Department of Social Communications of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) has released a statement in which CEI’s president, Cardinal Bagnasco, said he accepted Boffo’s resignation with “sadness.”

“Personally and on behalf of the entire episcopate, I confirm my profound gratitude for his deep commitment shown through many years of competence, rigor and passion,” the cardinal wrote.

Dino Boffo provided a service “extremely precious” for the life of the Church and Italian society, the cardinal continued, offering “our unmoved appreciation for his person, the object of an unspeakable attack in the media."

In response to the attack on Boffo, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cancelled a dinner with Berlusconi scheduled for last Friday. He and many church officials and party leaders have expressed solidarity with Boffo, accusing Il Giornale of mud-slinging and dirty tricks.

According to Reuters, Boffo has thanked church leaders for their support but has insisted his resignation is irrevocable.

“The Church has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted," he said.

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Archdiocese of Sydney to take over Xt3.com social networking site

Sydney, Australia, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - Xt3 Media, developer of the Catholic social networking site Xt3.com, has come to an agreement with Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell to have the archdiocese take over the effort.

Xt3.com was launched for Sydney World Youth Day 2008, with the support of the cardinal and the archdiocese. Following World Youth Day, the archdiocese and Xt3 Media expanded the site as a communications and broadcast platform throughout the Church.

Earlier this year, Xt3.com exclusively streamed the handover of the World Youth Day Cross in Rome on Palm Sunday.

The archdiocese will permanently take over the complete funding and resourcing of the site, a press release from Xt3 Media reports.

Robert Toone, co-founder of Xt3.com, said he was “delighted” with the outcome and said the move will ensure that Xt3.com becomes “embedded” into the daily life of the Catholic Church.

He characterized Xt3.com as “a significant step forward for the Catholic Church in its mission to reach out to and engage young people.”

Xt3 Media has changed its name to Kristos Media to avoid confusion. Kristos Media will continue to support Xt3.com and offer strategies, support, advice, and expertise to future World Youth Day organizers, including Madrid 2011.

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Pope Benedict points to St. Augustine as source of unity with Orthodox

Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - In a letter he sent Thursday to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,  Pope Benedict XVI has underscored that the teachings of St. Augustine are a path seeking unity with the Orthodox.
 
The message from the Pope was sent to Cardinal Kasper as the 11th Inter-Christian Symposium gathered in Rome. The meeting was organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and the Aristotle Orthodox Theological Faculty of Thessalonica.

In his message, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for “this initiative of fraternal encounter and exchange on the common aspects of spirituality, which is beneficial for a closer relationship between Catholics and Orthodox.”
 
After noting that the location of the meeting in Rome provides a “strong stimulus to advance toward full communion and above all, the memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul,” Pope Benedict XVI explained that the meeting’s theme, “St. Augustine in the Western and Eastern Tradition,” is "most interesting for reflecting further on Christian theology and spirituality in the West and in the East, and on its development.”
 
“The Saint of Hippo, a great Father of the Latin Church, is, in fact, of fundamental importance for theology and for the West's very culture, whereas the reception of his thought in Orthodox theology has revealed itself to be rather problematic,” the Pontiff said.  “Hence, to know the doctrinal and spiritual riches that make up the patrimony of the Christian East and West with historical objectivity and fraternal cordiality, is essential not only for appreciating them, but also for promoting better reciprocal appreciation among all Christians”
 
After expressing his desire that the symposium be a success, Pope Benedict XVI offered his “prayer for this end, asking the Lord to bless the organizers and the institutions they represent, the Catholic and Orthodox speakers and all the participants.”

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Five Christians killed in Pakistan

Rome, Italy, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - Vatican Radio reported Thursday that five Christians were gunned down in the Pakistani city of Quetta on August 28, according to local media reports.

The latest attack by Muslim extremists follows the massacre of in the city of Gojra, where several Christians were killed and more than 100 homes were ransacked.

According to Vatican Radio expert Stephano Vecchia, “It is very likely that this was done by the same (Taliban) extremists who acted out in the city of Gojra at the beginning of August.”

“Many sources in Pakistan have noted a change in strategy of the Taliban: no more suicide attacks against sensitive targets, but rather a strategy of tension that leads to confrontation between the communities. This strategy seeks to hit minorities particularly hard,” he explained.

Vecchio said apart from the political tensions that the country is currently experiencing, Christians have to deal with the anti-blasphemy laws, which turns them into victims of discrimination and an easy target for extremists.

Anti-blasphemy laws stipulate life sentences and even the death penalty for those who insult the Koran or the prophet Mohammed. The bishops of Pakistan have complained that the law is often abused.

Christians represent about 1.6% of the Pakistani population, which numbers 160 million.

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College students bring Gospel to poor regions of Ecuador

Loja, Ecuador, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - The University of Loja has launched of this year’s missionary outreach program. Since 2004, the program has given college students a chance to bring the gospel “to the poorest communities of Ecuador.” 
 
According to the organizers, the program is supported by the president of the Ecuadoran Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Antonio Arregui Yarza, and runs from September 2 through 13. This year’s theme is, “Missionary of Christ, You Are The Hope of Ecuador.”
 
“The intention of this missionary program over the years has been to reach the most fragile regions of our country to bring about humanistic, socio-economic development in communities,” they said.
 
The program also provides assistance to these regions in the form of training workshops and career development.

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Medellin City Council unable to convince residents to allow abortion clinic

Medellin, Colombia, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - Despite its intense efforts, the Medellin City Council in Colombia has not been able to convince residents to approve the opening of a Women’s Clinic that would offer abortion services.
 
This week the council held a televised debate to convince the public that it is looking out for the health of women, but several residents pointed out that the clinic would be focused primarily on providing abortion and contraception.
 
The newspaper, El Colombiano, published a letter sent to Marta Liliana Herrera, the First Lady of Colombia, from a Colombian architect living in Spain. The architect, Analida Sanin Gutierrez, explained why she as a female did not participate in an architectural planning session for the new clinic.
 
Although she is an abortion supporter, Gutierrez wrote that she was disappointed with the building plans because “they lack guarantees for the health and wellbeing” of women.
 
She questioned why the Women’s Clinic would offer no maternity services, just two gynecological offices, no trauma or oncology departments, and nutritional care only for cases of bulimia and anorexia.  She also said the clinic lacks departments for psychological counseling, physical, psychological, social or sexual abuse therapy and legal counseling.
 
Gutierrez said there was a fundamental question that needs to be addressed by the builders of the clinic. “What is the true purpose of the Women’s Clinic?” Without a clear answer, she said in her letter, she would not able to make any kind of financial or professional commitment to the project.

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Report warns that Education for the Citizenry promotes distorted 'sexuality'

Madrid, Spain, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - The coordinator of  those expressing their conscientious objection to the Spanish government’s school course, Education for the Citizenry, Leonor Tamayo, said this week that the course’s content promotes “a purely hedonistic and irresponsible view of sexual and emotional relations.”
 
Echoing the concerns of the organization Professionals for Ethics, Tamayo pointed out that the multimedia information posted on the Ministry of Education’s website is directed towards teachers and students and “incites teens to engage in casual and underage sex, providing them with explanations about intercourse, including anal sex, oral sex and how to engage in it.”
 
He also criticized the content for teaching kids that they have the freedom to choose whatever sexual orientation they desire, whether that be “homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual.”  The website also teaches kids how to masturbate and the “legal means they can employ to procure an abortion and where this can be done,” Tamayo said.
 
The Ministry of Education’s multimedia presentation is being used as the basis for creating content for 10 to 16 year-old students, he added, thus promoting a purely hedonistic and irresponsible view of sexual and emotional relations.
 
Professionals for Ethics also rejected the inclusion of the course in primary education, saying it violates the rights of parents to choose the kind of formation their children receive.

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Congress on charity, reconciliation and human dignity draws experts to Peru

Lima, Peru, Sep 4, 2009 (CNA) - With an apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, the International Congress “Charity, Reconciliation and Human Dignity” began in Lima, gathering capital leading experts from the Americas and Europe in the Peruvian capital to reflect on the theme in the light of the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
In the blessing sent to the congress, the Pope encouraged the participants "to deepen in the Social Doctrine of the Church to find in it the principles that, inspired in the Gospel, contribute to the creation of a society more worthy of man."

On the opening day of the event, organized by the Archdiocese of Lima and the Life and Spirituality Association (Vida y Espiritualidad), Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani recalled the urgency of spreading the Social Doctrine of the Church in the public arena. During this time of crisis, he said, the lay faithful should not accept attempts being made to confine the Church to the private sphere, thus leading to a secularized society.

"More than ever, the presence of the teaching and the practice of the Social Doctrine of the Church in the public field becomes necessary. Given this dramatic crisis, it is unacceptable that the Church is confined to the private sphere in the name of pluralism and freedom. An awakening is needed, "said Cardinal Cipriani.

In addition, the Founder and Superior General of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, Luis Fernando Figari, offered the keynote speech, titled, “The Lord Jesus, the Reconciler of Human Beings.”

Figari said that in recent years the word "reconciliation" has become depleted, and that Catholics need to regain its meaning by looking to the initiative of God, who comes to meet men in order to overcome the deep ruptures of sin.

"The Lord Jesus, in his person and in his mysteries, has come to reconcile humans with God, with the depths of one's self, with other human beings and with creation, then as now he presents himself to human beings in the proclamation and in the ever present consummation of his love. ‘He is the same yesterday, today and shall be forever,’ as we read in Scripture and as we have repeated so much in recent years on the Continent of Hope," he said.

Finally, Bishop Carlos Garcia Camader of Lurin, Peru spoke about "Mary, Mother of Reconciliation," emphasizing the crucial role played by the Virgin in the reconciliation of humanity. He said, "She is, in all truth and authenticity, Mother of Reconciliation and of the reconciled."

The congress began on the evening of September 3 and will conclude on September 5. Cardinal James Stafford, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary and former Archbishop of Denver, is scheduled to deliver an address on Saturday.

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