Vatican City, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe, Cardinal Peter Erdö, said this week that although the Church’s voice often does not make the front page, it is always “stronger than any other noise, lie, propaganda or manipulation.”
During his remarks at the Synod of Bishops of Africa, the cardinal underscored that “Christ is the light of the world. He also illuminates the shadows of human history, and no darkness, no hatred, no evil can overcome him. In Him is our hope.”
“Although the voice of the Church and the testimony of each Christian seems weak, although that voice does not often make the front page of the major newspapers, this subtle voice is stronger than any noise, lie, propaganda or manipulation. We are witnesses of the strength of the martyrs,” he said.
“We Catholics of Europe,” the cardinal continued, “have learned from our history to be attentive to the destiny of African Christians, and we have learned as well to appreciate your fidelity, your testimony and the African martyrs who give lives—year after year in troubling numbers—for Christ and for His Church, and for us as well.”
“The Church in Africa deserves our gratitude and our profound esteem,” he said in conclusion.
St. Louis, Mo., Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - A Missouri bishop has decried a “mentality of sterility,” naming it as a main factor in the present crisis of family life. He predicted that the renewal of the family and the Church would take place only when Catholics rediscover their “call to fruitfulness.”
Speaking at a Sept. 26 workshop for the assembly of the Missouri Catholic Conference, Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau James V. Johnston said that all love “tends toward an incarnation” and requires the “daily cultivation of the soul” in holiness.
“It is a call that we must respond to anew each day to God’s question, ‘Where are you?’”
According to the St. Louis Review, the bishop said family life is now in crisis because it is formed in a mentality of sterility. He compared contraception within marriage as the “sacrament” of this attitude.
Family life, the culture and the Church will only be renewed when the “domestic church” rediscovers “its call to fruitfulness at every level.”
In comments after his speech, Bishop Johnston said the Church can save the world by starting with the family. True love, freely given and unconditional, faithful to the end and fruitful, is revealed by Jesus on the Cross.
The bishop noted that in many dioceses the number of sacramental marriages is decreasing even as the numbers of Catholics increase.
But marriage and family is where a Christian “learns the discipleship of Christ and learns to say yes to God.”
Other topics at the Conference assembly included workshops on poverty, school choice, immigration, social networking, saving Catholic schools, pro-life legislators and Missouri’s response to the economic downturn, the St. Louis Review reports.
The assembly also honored five Missourians for promoting the common good. They included Cindy Finney of Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves, a founder of First Friends of Immigrants and Refugees. She was given the Citizen Recognition Award for her work helping immigrants and refugees.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Joseph Tlhagale of Johannesburg, South Africa said this morning at the Synod for Africa that the continent faces a "second wave of colonization" from "liberalism, secularism and from lobbyists who squat at the United Nations."
The South African archbishop began his five-minute intervention by noting that moral values are "embedded in the diverse African cultures," and that, "alongside the Gospel values, are threatened by the new global ethic."
This ethic, he said, "aggressively seeks to persuade African governments and communities to accept new and different meanings of concepts of family, marriage and human sexuality." He also added that "the cultures of Africa are under heavy strain from liberalism, secularism and from lobbyists who squat at the United Nations."
Archbishop Tlhagale described the situation as "a second wave of colonization both subtle and ruthless at the same time."
Confronting the onslaught of African society requires a strong effort on the part of laity, said the South African prelate. By virtue of their Baptism, he explained, they "are expected to witness in the public square, in their families and places of work."
Unfortunately, he stated, "their Christian voice in the face of the many challenges in Africa, is weak, muffled or simply silent. The hierarchy is without credible partners in the work of the transformation of Africa. Lay Catholics need to be given a voice in order to stand up and be counted for their Catholic faith. The hierarchy cannot do it alone."
Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and four other bishops have issued a "Statement of Principles" for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, saying a recent clarifying document would be amended to remove misunderstanding about the purpose of inter-religious dialogue.
Cardinal George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the October 2 statement in response to an August 18 letter from Jewish leaders. They had expressed concern about the June 18 USCCB document "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in ‘Reflections on Covenant and Mission.’"
They were specifically concerned about the note’s seventh paragraph. They believed that section had formally characterized Catholic-Jewish dialogue as an explicit or implicit invitation to Jews to abandon their faith.
In a USCCB explanatory letter dated Oct. 5, the bishops said that the note was intended as a clarification primarily for Catholics but led to "misunderstandings and feelings of hurt among members of the Jewish community." The note will be amended by the removal of two sentences that "might lead to misunderstanding about the purpose of interreligious dialogue," an October 6 USCCB statement says.
The two sentences to be removed clarify a previous USCCB document that said inter-religious dialogue is a form of evangelization that is "mutually enriching" and "devoid of any intention whatsoever" to invite a dialogue partner to baptism.
"Though Christian participation in inter-religious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the Church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited," the controversial sentence of the note reads.
The Oct. 2 USCCB document "Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue" discusses the endurance of Jewish covenantal life as "a vital witness to God’s saving will." It explains Christian faith in Jesus Christ as the "unique savior of all mankind" who fulfills God’s promises and covenants with Israel.
The statement notes Catholics’ "sacred responsibility" to witness to Christ always but emphasizes that Jewish-Catholic dialogue will never be used as a means of "proselytism" nor is it intended to be a "disguised invitation to baptism."
"In sitting at the table, we expect to encounter Jews who are faithful to the Mosaic covenant, just as we insist that only Catholics committed to the teaching of the Church encounter them in our dialogues."
The statement also notes that Catholic participants in Jewish-Catholic dialogue have the responsibility to distinguish for their Jewish partners when a statement refers to Church teaching and when it is a theological opinion of scholars.
"We remain deeply committed to dialogue and friendship with the Jewish people," the USCCB statement concludes.
Madrid, Spain, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Rouco, encouraged Spaniards this week to participate in the upcoming March for Life which more than 40 organizations are convening from all over the country. The October 17 march is being held as the Spanish government continues to push for a liberalization of the country's abortion laws.
In Salamanca, where he attended the opening of the new school year for the Pontifical University, the cardinal explained that this important event “is very good, and so is exercising one’s right to protest.”
After noting that he would not be able to attend the march, Cardinal Rouco said it will be very difficult to stop the government’s anti-life agenda but that Spaniards should not give up hope.
“May our Lord resolve these problems. Because history is long and therefore the future of a society, of a people, is not controlled by men. And what is legislated today can change a chapter of history later on,” he told the COPE Radio Network.
The Spanish cardinal also touched on the issue of education and parent's right to object to the Education for the Citizenry course being required by the government.
Cardinal Rouco explained that the state “is not the monopolizing owner of education and must count on society. And not only through simple and pure political instruments, but also through social dialogue, social debate and a little bit of agreement among all of the realities of society involved in education.”
Parents, who are the primary educator of their children, should be taken into consideration first and foremost, he said.
Vatican City, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) -
Catholics in Palestine were the topic of conversation this morning between Pope Benedict and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Holy Father met with Abbas at the Apostolic Palace, where they discussed the Pope's recent trip to the Holy Land, the situation in the region and the importance of finding a "lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Solving the long running dispute requires that "the rights of everyone are respected and recognized," the two leaders agreed. In particular, "emphasis was given to the importance of co-operation and mutual respect between the parties involved, and of the support of the international community," the Vatican said.
The plight of Catholics, who have been fleeing persecution and the unstable situation in Palestine and throughout the Holy Land, was addressed as well. Finally, the contribution that Christians make to the social life and to peaceful coexistence among peoples was noted.
Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - The U.S. Catholic bishops sent an open letter to Congress today, stating that they will “vigorously oppose” the health care bills unless they prevent taxpayer funds from paying for abortion, make care affordable for everyone and ensure that immigrants have access to the health system.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester penned the letter on behalf of all the U.S. bishops to "express our disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria for health care reform that we have conveyed previously to Congress."
"In fact," they noted, "the Senate Finance Committee rejected a conscience rights amendment accepted earlier by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”
The bishops warned Congress that if the final legislation “does not meet our principles, we will have no choice but to oppose the bill.”
At the same time, the Catholic bishops said that they “remain committed to working with the Administration, Congressional leadership and our allies to produce final health reform legislation that will reflect our principles.”
Listing the flaws that they see in the current health care bills, the Catholic bishops urged lawmakers to prohibit “mandated coverage for abortion, and incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights.”
“No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion,” they insisted.
Despite insistence by some legislators that the reform bills do exclude abortion and protect consciences, the high-ranking bishops said that, “No current bill meets this test.”
The prelates also stated that any reform proposal should “make quality health care affordable and accessible to everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who live at or near the poverty level.”
The final measure the bishops pushed for was that legislation should include “effective measures to safeguard the health of immigrants, their children and all of society.” They also asserted that the bill should “ensure legal immigrants and their family members have comprehensive, affordable, and timely access to health care coverage.”
Saying that they “sincerely hope that the legislation will not fall short of our criteria,” the U.S. bishops said that they “remain apprehensive when amendments protecting freedom of conscience and ensuring no taxpayer money for abortion are defeated in committee votes.”
“If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found,” the warned, “we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.”
The bishops concluded their letter by writing, “Much-needed reform of our health care system must be pursued in ways that serve the life and dignity of all, never in ways that undermine or violate these fundamental values.”
Brasilia, Brazil, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - The Brazilian Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense has approved the accords that recognize, among other things, the juridical status of the Catholic Church in Brazil as well as her work in the country. According to the Senado news agency, the agreement between Brazil and the Holy See will now be sent to the entire Senate for debate.
The project's secretary general, Fernando Collor, stressed that the accord does not establish any relation of dependence between the two parties. Already passed by Brazil’s House of Representatives, the accord consists of twenty articles and refers to the processes and the work of the Church in that country, religious education in schools and tax exemptions, granting them the corresponding legal security.
The accord also addresses freedom of worship, the use of public areas for religious purposes, the protection of the seal of confession and other issues covered by Brazil’s Constitution.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - A statue of Our Lady of Lujan—the most popular Marian devotion in Argentina—will be erected on October 10 at the Darwin Cemetery on the Falkland Islands by a group of family members of fallen soldiers, accompanied by Bishop Juan Carlos Romanin of Rio Gallegos.
“This is the statue of Our Lady of Lujan, patroness of Argentina, the last piece of the monument to our fallen soldiers on the Falkland Islands,” the bishop said, adding that the Mother of God will watch over the eternal repose of our brothers “who fought the good fight for independence and national sovereignty,” as the inscription at the foot of the statue reads.
“This invitation is truly a gift of God for me, allowing me to travel to this place that is so beloved by our Church. Many of the former soldiers have venerated the Mother of God and have expressed their feelings, necessities, prayers and hopes to her.”
The statue will be erected at the monument in the Cemetery of Darwin to watch over “the Argentineans who lie in rest on the archipelago since 1982.”
Maynooth, Ireland, Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - Survivors of abuse at the hands of Irish clergy and religious met with the full house of the Irish Bishops’ Conference at Maynooth on Wednesday, asking that they ensure restitution is made to all victims.
The meeting was the first between the bishops and representatives of the survivors of abuse, a press release from the Archdiocese of Armagh reports.
Survivors outlined the impact of child abuse on individuals and their families and condemned what the Archdiocese of Armagh described as “vile” acts of abuse.
Speakers at the meeting were Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group, John Kelly of the Survivors of Child Abuse Ireland, Tom Hayes of the Alliance group and Christy Heaphy of the Cork-based Right to Place group.
Kelly said the representatives had given a full account of their experiences to the bishops, saying the accounts must have been “difficult for them to listen to.”
He said there had been a “thundering silence” from the Irish hierarchy when the issue of contributions to the victim reparation scheme was raised. He asked that the bishops make the religious orders meet their full responsibility.
O’Brien said he was happy the meeting had taken place.
The victims’ representatives asked the bishops to set up a subcommittee to begin a discussion with the groups as they seek resolution on the issue. He also asked the bishops to intercede with the government to see that survivors who lived in England and did not go to the Redress Board have the opportunity to do so.
After the meeting the representatives spoke to the media along with Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.
Cardinal Brady said that the groups’ initial contacts with the bishops during the summer led to the meeting. He said the meeting marked the first of many steps and thanked the representatives for giving their vision of the way forward.
Archbishop Martin said the meeting was the most significant gathering of the hierarchy he had attended.
"It was extraordinary," he commented. "We had particularly good discussions about survivors in England, many of whom are old and homeless and discussed how resources could be made available to help them."
Hayes said the meeting was “an historic day for all of us.”
In May 2009 Ireland’s Child Abuse Commission released its report on the physical and sexual abuse inflicted on thousands of children over the past 70 years at the hands of religious and lay staff of institutions caring for disadvantaged, neglected and abandoned children. The inquiry produced findings against 216 facilities.
Belmont, N.C., Oct 8, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic lay leadership is essential in public life and can accomplish much that Catholic bishops cannot do, Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput has said. His Thursday speech at an awards banquet praised Belmont Abbey College for standing up for its “right to be Catholic,” while also warning that evil will certainly triumph if it is left unopposed.
“There may be many times when a bishop or group of bishops needs to speak out publicly about the moral consequences of a public issue. But the main form of Catholic leadership in wider society – in the nation’s political, economic and social life – needs to be done by you, the Catholic lay faithful,” he said.
The archbishop’s remarks came in his acceptance speech for the Envoy of the Year Award bestowed by Belmont Abbey College’s Envoy Institute.
Archbishop Chaput emphasized the need to form Catholic lay leaders who know and love the teachings of the Church and faithfully live them out.
“But once those lay leaders exist, clergy cannot and should not interfere with the leadership that rightly belongs, by baptism, to their vocation as lay apostles,” he explained.
The archbishop’s remarks touched upon topics such as the nature of the state, the nature of Catholics’ Christian faith and the nature of the lay vocation.
He also reflected on patriotism, calling it a virtue for Christians.
“Love for the best qualities in our homeland is a noble thing. This is why military service and public office are not just socially useful vocations, but – at their best – great and honorable ones,” the archbishop continued.
While Jesus’ words about the distinction between “the things that are Caesar’s” and “the things that are God’s” acknowledges that Caesar, the state, has rights, these words also show that Caesar is not a god and has no rights over the things that are God’s.
“And ultimately, everything important about human life belongs not to Caesar, but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will; the people we love; the beauty and goodness in the world; our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things that matter. These are the things worth fighting for. And none of them comes from the state.”
Invoking the example of American Founding Father Charles Carroll, who suffered forms of anti-Catholic bigotry, he said that religious prejudice faced now has a different appearance.
“Caesar wears a different suit. He has great media handlers. He bullies religion while he claims to respect it. He talks piously about the law and equality and tolerance and fairness. But he still confuses himself with God –and he still violates the rights of Catholic believers and institutions by intruding himself where he has no right to be.”
The archbishop then referred to Belmont Abbey College’s dispute with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which reversed itself and declared that the Catholic college’s refusal to cover contraceptives is discriminatory against women.
“It’s one of the great ironies of the moment that tiny Belmont Abbey would have the courage to challenge Caesar over its right to be faithfully Catholic in its policies, while so many other American Catholics seem eager to give Caesar honors.”
“If you stand up to evil, you may lose. But if you don’t stand up, you will lose,” the archbishop continued, crediting Belmont Abbey for its defense of its “right to be Catholic.”
He urged Catholic citizens to demand modesty of political leaders and to show love to others not in feeling alone but in deeds.
“Working to defend the sanctity of human persons and the dignity of the human family is an obligation of Christian love. Therefore, the Church can’t be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time,” he added.
“Our God is a God of justice; a God who does not abandon his people and who rewards courage in the face of evil. So have courage, serve the truth, love the Church, take confidence in the Lord, and stand up to witness for your faith,” Archbishop Chaput’s speech concluded. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We have everything to gain.”
To read the full text of Archbishop Chaput's remarks, please visit, http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/2719.