Sydney, Australia, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Australia is trying to secure refugee status for a young Kenyan woman who came to Australia for World Youth Day and wants to stay because she claims that she will be circumcised and forced to marry if she returns to her country.
Teresia Ndikaru Muturi came to World Youth Day last year knowing she did not want to return to Kenya.
"Because I'm fearing my own mum for how she's forcing me to marry [an] old man, to leave school and yet I don't want to leave my school. Also I'm fearing to be circumcised," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Her mother is reportedly a member of the outlawed Mungiki sect, which practices female genital mutilation. According to Muturi, the sect believes one can only become a full woman and get married once one is circumcised.
When she was 16, her mother had told her she had arranged for her marriage to an older man and had received a payment of cash, cows and goats.
"He brought cows and goats for my mum, so no way I could escape from it, I have to get married," she said.
The young woman fled and lived with her stepsister until her uncle, a priest, arranged for her to come to Australia.
Muturi’s application for asylum has been rejected. She was also unsuccessful at Australia’s Refugee Review Tribunal.
Franciscan Sister Aileen Crowe has applied to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans to intervene, but that effort too was unsuccessful. A second application, which includes new information about Muturi’s psychological state, is pending.
“There is nothing for them. Australian law up until now does not recognize them at all. The only way they can be recognized is if they go to the Minister,” Sister Crowe told ABC, characterizing women like Muturi as the silent asylum seekers.
Last week Immigration Department staff told Muturi she had to buy a plane ticket to leave the country next month.
A spokesman for Minister Evans says that she will not be forced to leave the country until the new information has been thoroughly assessed.
Sr. Crowe said that the government’s approach is inconsistent.
"Four Ugandan girls suffered the same possibilities, all got protection on the first go. It's just a lottery, but people's lives are at stake in this lottery," she said, claiming that Evans is not receiving all the information he needs to decide on cases.
College Station, Texas, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The 40 Days for Life autumn campaign will begin on Wednesday in 212 cities, starting efforts like prayer and fasting for an end to abortion, peaceful vigils outside abortion facilities, and grassroots community organizing.
The official effort is scheduled to last until November 1. David Bereit, national director of 40 Days for Life, said that “tens of thousands of faithful people” will participate in 45 American states, five Canadian provinces and Denmark.
The organization reports it has helped mobilize more than 215,000 people in its two years of work. Their efforts have reportedly saved 1,561 lives from abortion and have been endorsed by dozens of pro-life and pro-family groups.
Religious leaders, including more than 20 Catholic bishops, have also promoted the campaign.
The fall campaign will be the most widespread and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history, 40 Days for Life claims. It also alleges a “misinformation blitz” by pro-abortion partisans is trying to smear the campaign
Bereit said Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, was generating “inflammatory rhetoric.” The organization’s Houston affiliate has called on its supporters to “defend women’s health” from the “40 days of harassment.” A St. Louis affiliate has hung a huge “defend the truth” banner from the side of its building.
“Ironically, the truth is something Planned Parenthood tries to hide," said Bereit. "The truth is that the child in the womb is a human being, and that abortion takes the life of the child and can leave a devastating impact on the mother."
40 Days for Life reported that 90 percent of the prayer vigil locations are at Planned Parenthood facilities.
The organization has also been part of the Stop the Abortion Mandate coalition, which is working to ensure abortion is explicitly excluded from any proposed health care reform bill.
"We have never before seen the intensity of passion and extensive involvement in pro-life efforts that we are seeing all across North America right now," said Bereit. "We don't know what blessings this fall's 40 Days for Life will hold, but we can't wait to see what God has in store!”
For more information visit, www.40daysforlife.com.
South Bend, Ind., Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - Respected Notre Dame law professor emeritus Charles E. Rice has criticized University of Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins’ announcement of new pro-life initiatives, saying they will be regarded only as a “cosmetic covering” unless charges are dropped against pro-life protesters arrested during President Barack Obama’s commencement speech.
In a September 21 open letter to Fr. Jenkins, Prof. Rice expressed appreciation for the university president’s professed support for the pro-life cause in his letter about the initiatives.
He also joined President Jenkins in praising the work for the Women’s Care Center and suggested he invite the pro-life pregnancy support organization to open an on-campus office.
Turning to Fr. Jenkins’ announcement of the formation of the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life, Prof. Rice voiced agreement with alumnus William Dempsey, who has criticized “the obviously deliberate exclusion” of anyone associated with “unashamedly and actively pro-life” organizations like the Center for Ethics & Culture and the Notre Dame Fund for the protection of Human Life.
Similarly, the task force includes no leadership from the student Right to Life organization or from those at ND Response, the coalition which protested President Obama’s commencement invitation and honorary degree.
“It is hard to resist the inference that this is as a move toward marginalizing the Center and the Fund, neither of which receives any University support the way it is,” Dempsey said.
The alumnus also noted that Fr. Jenkins’ recent annual address to the faculty discussed increasing female and minority faculty representation but said nothing about the loss of Catholic identity and the failure to hire enough Catholics at the university.
Dempsey warned of the risk that the pro-life initiative will distract from the university’s “fundamental problem” of not having enough faithful Catholics to sustain a pro-life effort launched mainly because of outside pressure.
On the matter of the 88 pro-life protesters arrested during President Obama’s appearance at the university, Prof. Rice said University Chief of Staff Frances L. Shavers was being “misleading” in saying that they were arrested for trespassing and not for expressing pro-life views.
In Prof. Rice’s view, the protesters were arrested “not because they were there, but because of who they were, why they were there and what they were saying.
“Other persons with pro-Obama signs were there but were not arrested and not disturbed. Serious legal and constitutional questions are involved, arising especially from the symbiotic relationship between the Notre Dame Security Police, who made the arrests, and the County Police.”
He said it was “disingenuous” for Notre Dame to “pretend that this is merely a routine trespass case.” It is only because of the university’s actions that they are treated as criminals, he charged.
If the protesters accepted an alternative legal option, called pretrial diversion, they would each have to pay hundreds of dollars in costs. In Rice’s view, this was tantamount to a fine.
“Most of the 88 are in straitened financial circumstances. The imposition on them of such a fine would be a serious hardship. Instead, Notre Dame ought to state publicly that it has no interest in seeing those prosecutions proceed in any form and that it requests the prosecutor to exercise his discretion to dismiss all those charges unconditionally.”
Prof. Rice highlighted the case of 79-year-old Fr. Norman Weslin, a longtime pro-life advocate who is a Lutheran convert, a widower and former Lt. Colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division. Rice called his arrest “one of the lowest points in the entire history of Notre Dame.”
“It would have been better for you and the complicit Fellows and Trustees to dialogue with Fr. Weslin rather than lock him up as a criminal. You all could have learned something from him. His actions in defense of innocent life and the Faith have been and are heroic. Notre Dame’s treatment of Fr. Weslin is a despicable disgrace, the responsibility for which falls directly and personally upon yourself as the President of Notre Dame.”
Prof. Rice then discussed Fr. Jenkins’ pledge to attend the March for Life on January 22 in Washington, D.C.
“Notre Dame should have had an official presence at every March for Life since 1973. But until now it never has,” he said.
Fr. Jenkins’ presentation of himself as a pro-life advocate while continuing to be the “jailer” of those offering an “authentic pro-life witness” would be “a mockery,” Prof. Rice charged, again calling for the charges to be dismissed.
“As long as you pursue the criminalization of those pro-life witnesses, your newest pro-life statements will be regarded reasonably as a cosmetic covering of the institutional anatomy in the wake of the continuing backlash arising from your conferral of Notre Dame’s highest honor on the most relentlessly pro-abortion public official in the world,” Prof. Rice wrote.
Bringing his missive to a close, the law professor said, “this letter is not written in a spirit of contention. It is written rather in the mutual concern we share for Notre Dame—and for her university. I hope you will reconsider your positions on these matters. Our family prays for you by name every night. And we wish you success in the performance of your obligations to the University and all concerned.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Vatican City State Governorate, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, recalled this week that Pope Benedict XVI is the successor of Peter, the “rock” of the Church, and as such “strengthens the brethren” and shepherds “the flock,” fulfilling the mission entrusted by Christ himself for the salvation of mankind.
In a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica for a group of German pilgrims, the cardinal explained that the altar in St. Peter’s does not bear the image of the apostle as one would expect because Peter is the living Pontiff who today bears the name of Benedict XVI.
The Pope, he said, “is the one who sites on the Chair of St. Peter, the one who carries out his mandate, which Christ conferred to Peter as the ‘rock’ of the Church in order to ‘strengthen the brethren and shepherd the flock.’”
This “means guiding the Church today as yesterday throughout the times,” the cardinal said. Consequently an interesting question arises: “Why so much insistence on the symbolic value of this Chair?” he wondered aloud.
First of all, Cardinal Lajolo explained, it is because “the Chair sustains the truth that authentically testifies to the word of Christ and protects man, all men, and not only the faithful, from falsehood.”
At the general audience of February 22, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI explained that the term “‘cathedra’ literally means the fixed seat of the bishop, placed in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called a ‘cathedral’ and is the symbol of the bishop’s authority and, in particular, of his ‘magisterium,’ that is, the evangelical teaching that he, since he is a successor of the apostles, is called to protect and pass on to the Christian community.”
“When a bishop takes possession of the particular church entrusted to him, with the mitre and the staff, he sits on his cathedra. From this chair he will guide, as a teacher and pastor, the walk of the faithful in faith, in hope and charity,” Cardinal Lajolo taught.
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Holy Father has appointed Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta as a member of the forthcoming Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The synod will be held at the Vatican from October 4-25, 2009.
Archbishop Gregory is the only American to be appointed to this assembly, which is the second Special Assembly for Africa, the first having been held by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
The archbishop, who sat on the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Liturgy from 1991-1993, has written prolifically on the liturgy, especially that of the African American community.
Although he is not an American, Spiritan Father Paulinus Ikechukwu Odozor, a moral theologian who is an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, has been appointed as an expert for the synod.
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI traveled by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo to Rome for Wednesday’s general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where he called on all Christians to imitate St. Anselm of Canterbury's example of love for the truth and constant thirst for God.
This year, Benedict XVI recounted, marks eleven centuries since the death of Anselm. Known also as Anselm of Aosta and Anselm of Bec, the saint was born in the northern Italian town of Aosta in 1033. The eldest son of a noble family, his mother gave him a Christian etew experiences and was drawn to the Abbey of Bec by the fame of its prior, Lanfranco of Pavia. There, at the age of 27, he embraced the monastic life. Three years later Lanfranco was appointed abbot of Caeny, and Anselm became the prior of Bec.
The Pope added that in his new role, Anselm “was very demanding with himself and others in monastic observance, but rather than imposing discipline he sought to make people follow it by persuasion.” Instead of resorting to authoritarian methods, Anselm preferred to give them “a 'healthy' measure of freedom,” Benedict XVI summarized.
When Lanfranco of Pavia was appointed as archbishop of Canterbury, England, he asked Anselm to help him in educating the monks. Later, when Lanfranco passed away in 1093, Anselm succeeded him as archbishop.
Anselm, the Pontiff said, “defended the Church from undue interference by the political authorities, especially King William Rufus and King Henry I.” His faithfulness to the Pope caused him to be exiled for three years in 1103.
This great spiritual leader was also a brilliant teacher and writer. In the prayer that opens his most celebrated work, the “Proslogion,” he expressed his desire to understand the faith, the divine truth his heart already believes and loves.
Anselm died on April 21, 1109 and Christian tradition has bestowed upon him the title of “Doctor Magnificus,” the Pope recalled. “The clarity and logical rigor of Anselm’s ideas always sought ‘to raise the mind to the contemplation of God.’ He made it clear that anyone who intends to study theology must not rely only upon his own intelligence but must also cultivate a profound experience of faith.”
“In St. Anselm’s view,” Pope Benedict said, “a true theologian’s work is divided into three stages: faith, God’s gratuitous gift to be welcomed with humility; experience, which consists in incarnating the Word of God into daily life; and true knowledge, which is never the fruit of sterile reasoning but of contemplative intuition.”
The Pope concluded by praying that the love for truth and the constant thirst for God, both of which characterized St. Anselm’s life, become a stimulus for Christians to tirelessly seek a more intimate union with Christ. He added, “May the courageous zeal that distinguished his pastoral work and that sometimes brought misunderstandings, bitterness and even exile be an encouragement for pastors, consecrated people and all the faithful to love the Church of Christ.”
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Commission of Cardinals which oversees the activities of the Vatican's bank, formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), has renewed the membership of the institute’s board and made a few new appointments. Among the new appointees is the head of the Knights of Columbus Carl A. Anderson.
The IOR is a financial institution governed by a Board of Superintendence, which is, in turn, regulated by a Commission of Cardinals led by Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State. The main function of the institute is to manage bank accounts for religious orders and Catholic associations.
The Supreme Knight’s appointment to the IOR is the latest of his Vatican appointments, which include being appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as well as to the Pontifical Council for the Family. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Mr. Anderson currently serves on the Board of Trustees of The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He is also a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and is admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court.
He will be serving the IOR alongside newly appointed President of the Board Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, an Italian banking magnate, and vice president Ronaldo Hermann Schmitz of Germany.
Vatican City, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of today’s general audience, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the example of St. Pio of Pietrelcina as the Church celebrates his feast day and encouraged Catholics to follow his example of “generous service to God and neighbor.”
In his greeting in Italian to young people, the infirm and newlyweds, the Holy Father said he hoped that the example of Padre Pio would “help you, beloved infirm, to experience in your suffering the help and consolation of Christ crucified.”
“May he make you, beloved newlywed spouses, capable of conserving in your families a constant concern for the poor,” he continued.
Lastly, Benedict XVI said he hoped “the example of this very popular saint will be for priests in this Year of Priests, and for all Christians, an invitation to always trust in the kindness of God.” The Pope also encouraged priests to imitate Padre Pio's dedication to offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, calling the saint an “untiring dispenser of divine mercy” and “a great devotee and faithful minister.”
Rome, Italy, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The director of the Holy See’s press office, Father Federico Lombardi, denied again today that Pope Benedict knew Bishop Richard Williamson held Holocaust diminishing beliefs before the Pontiff lifted the excommunication of the Pius X Society bishop. Such charges only “lead to creating confusion for no reason,” he said.
Responding to questions from journalists about a Swedish TV report scheduled to air Thursday night, the Vatican spokesman said today that there is “absolutely no basis for stating or insinuating that the Pope had been informed beforehand.”
Father Lombardi also noted that the statement by the Vatican Secretariat of State on February 4 “clearly denied” that the Pope was aware of the positions of the Lefebvrist bishop. He went on to explain that the statement categorically disassociated the Pope and the Catholic Church from any anti-Semitic position or denial of the Holocaust.
Moreover, he said, “the Pope’s letter to the bishops on March 10 put an end to the matter and there is no reason to revisit it.”
Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi said, “has explained the meaning of the lifting of the excommunication as a gesture in support of the unity of the Church and at the same time he has shown that the accusations about the lack of respect for the Jewish people are totally unfounded, and he has simply acknowledged the limits of Vatican communications both internally and externally.”
The Holy Father “has granted a new status to the Ecclesia Dei Commission (for dialogue with the Society of St. Pius X) in order to guarantee a better and more secure manner of proceeding” in issues related to relations with the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, he added.
Therefore, “re-launching the Williamson case only leads to creating confusion for no reason,” Father Lombardi said.
London, England, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - Various British media outlets reported on Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI has decided that he will visit Britain next September. Upon hearing the news, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the “prospect of a visit by Pope Benedict fills us with joy.”
Although the news of a visit has not been officially announced by either the Vatican or Downing Street, the Pope has received several invitations to visit Britain, most recently from Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster reacted to the reports by saying, “We are encouraged and pleased at the news which has emerged about the possible official visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the U.K. next year.”
“We are glad the Holy Father is giving such consideration to the invitations he has received from Her Majesty’s Government, which accord closely to the wishes and requests also expressed by the Bishops of England & Wales,” the archbishop said.
“The prospect of a visit by Pope Benedict fills us with joy.”
The Archdiocese of Malta also recently announced that the Vatican is looking into a possible papal trip to the island nation in 2010.
It has been 27 years since a Pontiff visited Britain, with Pope John Paul II making the last trip in 1982.
Thornwood, N.Y., Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - In reaction to the news that a woman was implanted with an embryo from another couple, Father Thomas Berg, Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, spoke to CNA about the tragedies that can happen in “the unregulated world of IVF.”
Sean and Carolyn Savage shared their story with the Today Show on September 21. The Ohio couple had been having trouble conceiving a child so had resorted to in vitro fertilization to have their fourth baby.
After going through the procedure to become pregnant, Carolyn was later given the news that the child growing inside of her was not hers. The fertility clinic had inadvertently implanted another couple’s baby into her womb.
Fr. Berg told CNA that the Savage’s story is “in many ways just the latest absurd chapter in the wild west that is the unregulated world of IVF.”
“It is tragic that this multi-billion dollar industry has been able to play on the emotions of thousands of vulnerable couples to make the very prospect of regulating this industry not only a cultural taboo but a potentially fatal political third rail for anyone in congress who would dare to take it on,” he said.
Sizing up the current state of the IVF industry, Fr. Berg stated, "it not only perpetuates the emersion of thousands of embryonic human beings into the absurd fate of deep frozen suspension until their eventual destruction (only a fraction of embryos created ever make it to live birth), but it sets the stage for on-going and tragic ‘mistakes’ like the one made with the Savages.”
Carolyn Savage is now 35 weeks pregnant and will give the baby to his biological parents following delivery.
According to the Today Show, the Savages have hired attorneys to make sure the fertility clinic they used accepts “full responsibility for the consequences of their misconduct.”
Bogotá, Colombia, Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Colombia is urging the militant group FARC to begin the process of releasing the hostages it is holding and reminded the rebel group that the entire country “is pleading for this step to be taken.”
The secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba, revealed that conference's president, Archbishop Ruben Salazar, sent a letter to the leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, asking for details about the expected release of hostages.
In recent statements, Bishop Cordoba explained this letter has not yet been answered and that the bishops are awaiting a prompt response.
In comments directed to the FARC, Bishop Cordoba said, “Brothers of the FARC, we hope in you, we trust in you. We extend to you a gentle hand. Don’t leave us with our hand held out. Colombia is pleading for this step to be taken.”
He went on to say, “You are fighting for very profound values such as equity, justice and equality. We agree about the principle but not about the method. You have embraced class warfare, we democracy. We are united in the principle; don’t sink to a lower level.”
“We believe in your capacity to build a country in peace. If that is what you are seeking, then work together,” Bishop Cordoba told the rebels. “We accept you, and I can even say we love you, but take actions that will allow you to be loved by us,” he said.
Manassas, Va., Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - The Cardinal Newman Society has published a second edition of “The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College,” a free online resource for parents and students seeking a faithful Catholic higher education.
The guide recommends 21 Catholic colleges in the United States and eight international, online and unique programs based on its evaluation of the strength of the schools’ Catholic identity. Evaluations are based on four years of research and hundreds of interviews.
Each college or program is profiled on its academics, governance, spiritual life, student activities and residence life, a press release from the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) says. A letter to families from each college president and information on financial aid packages have been added to the second edition’s profiles.
The guide also includes several essays to help families better understand their search for a strong Catholic college. Essay subjects include the state of Catholic higher ed, how to find God on a Catholic campus, and how to afford a Catholic education.
Authors of the essays include Peter Kreeft, Fr. C. John McCloskey, III, Phil Lenahan, Eileen Cubanski, and Kathryn Jean Lopez.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., has also written a foreword to the guide.
More than 8,000 copies of the first edition, published on All Saints Day in 2007, were distributed to Catholic leaders and families.
“When we published the original Newman Guide in 2007 we did not know what to expect, but we found that families were eagerly searching for help in identifying Catholic colleges that truly embrace their Catholic mission in all facets of campus life,” said Patrick J. Reilly, CNS president and an editor of the second edition of the Guide.
Tom Mead, executive vice president of CNS and another editor of “The Newman Guide,” commented that while the Notre Dame commencement speech “scandal” highlighted the great work needed for the renewal of Catholic higher education, the colleges recommended by the guide are “a prime example of how it is possible to have a quality academic program while remaining strongly Catholic.”
As a Catholic father who wants to help his children “get to Heaven,” Mead said, he is “personally grateful” that there are so many options among the colleges listed in the guide.
“Our great hope in publishing this edition of the Guide is that tens of thousands of Catholic families will be introduced to these campuses where strong Catholic identity is a priority,” he added.
Washington D.C., Sep 23, 2009 (CNA) - A new study has found that while most Americans agree that changes must be made to the current health care system, the majority does not want their tax-dollars or health care premiums to go toward abortions.
The survey was commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and was conducted by International Communications Research (ICR). The pollster called 1,043 adults in the U.S. and asked questions about abortion coverage and health care reform and conscience protections.
According to a press release from the USCCB, the researchers found that 60% of Americans favor the idea of health care reform as well as affordable health insurance for everyone. Of those who favor reform, 60% oppose tax-payer funded abortion, while 25% were in favor of it.
The study also found that 49% of people pushing for reform oppose paying for abortion coverage through health insurance premiums. Thirty-nine percent disagreed.
Also among those favoring reform, 60% also were for maintaining conscious protections for doctors and nurses; 30% were opposed.
Among all 1,043 surveyed, 67% opposed tax-payer funded abortion and 56% opposed paying for abortions through insurance premiums.
Another question on the survey asked, “If the choice were up to you, would you want your own insurance policy to include abortion?” Among those surveyed, 68% said “no” and 24% said “yes.”
Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities noted that the new survey confirms the results of other recent studies done on health care reform and abortion.
“With each passing week it gets clearer: The American public generally does not want to pay for abortion coverage and does not want health care reform used to promote abortion,” she said.
“Abortion is not health care,” McQuade continued, remarking that the U.S. bishops are working “to ensure that health care reform serves the most vulnerable among us – especially the poor, immigrants, and the unborn.”
More information regarding the U.S. bishops and health care reform, can be found at: www.usccb.org/healthcare.