Archive of October 23, 2009

Meeting of hundreds of Anglican clergy to consider Pope Benedict’s new provision

London, England, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Hundreds of traditionalist Anglican clergy will meet this weekend in London to discuss whether to enter the Catholic Church in light of Pope Benedict XVI’s creation of an Anglican “ordinariate.”

About 500 members of members of the group Forward in Faith will attend the meeting, the Times Online reports. Many of them are waiting for the Vatican’s publication of a Code of Practice, which will provide more detail about the proposed new church structure organized under an Apostolic Constitution.

The chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop of Fulham, England John Broadhurst, issued a statement on Tuesday responding to the Vatican announcement that a structure will be created to assist Anglicans who want to enter into communion with Rome.

Bishop Broadhurst said that Anglican Catholics have had “frequently expressed hope and fervent desire” to be enabled to enter into full communion with Rome while retaining “every aspect of their Anglican inheritance which is not at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

“We rejoice that the Holy Father intends now to set up structures within the Church which respond to this heartfelt longing. Forward in Faith has always been committed to seeking unity in truth and so warmly welcomes these initiatives as a decisive moment in the history of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England.”

He closed his message with the Latin phrase “Ut unum sint,” Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John meaning “may they be one.” The phrase is also the title of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical on ecumenism.

Jack Leo Iker, Episcopal Bishop of Ft. Worth, Texas, also responded to the proposed church structure in a Tuesday message.

“Many Anglo-Catholics will welcome this development as a very generous and welcoming offer that enhances the Pastoral Provision that has been in place for several years for those seeking reunion with Rome,” he commented. “Other Anglicans who desire full communion with the See of Peter would prefer some sort of recognition of the validity of Anglican orders and the provision for inter-communion between Roman Catholics and Anglicans.”

He said the virtues of the proposal include the maintenance of “certain aspects” of Anglican worship and spirituality, but he added that not all Anglo-Catholics can accept certain Catholic teachings and do not believe they must first “convert to Rome” to be truly catholic Christians.

The proposal comes at a “difficult time,” Bishop Iker continued, noting the lawsuits against his diocese by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the U.S.

His diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church in November 2008, choosing to join the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

“This diocese stands for orthodox Christianity, and we are increasingly at odds with the revisionist practices and teachings of the official leadership of The Episcopal Church,” he had said at the time of the vote.

The bishop closed his Tuesday statement by eschewing “hasty decisions” and by pledging to continue to work and pray for Christian unity.

Bishop Iker’s predecessor, Clarence C. Pope, Jr., converted to Catholicism in 2007.

More than 440 clergy left the Church of England after the Anglican Church’s General Synod voted in 1992 to ordain women priests, the London Times says. Some subsequently returned.

Pope Benedict’s proposal has reportedly made their conversion easier by allowing Anglicans to retain crucial aspects of their identity and by allowing them to set up seminaries.

However, some may face financial difficulties. The London Times reports that Catholic priests in Britain earn slightly over one-third the salary of Anglican clergymen.

While Anglican clergy who left the Church of England after its 1992 synod received a compensation package, the Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated there will be no similar package this time.

Bishops Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, the two prelates appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to minister to Anglicans opposed to women priests, advised against “sudden decisions.”

They said Anglicans will want to stay within the Anglican Communion, while others will want to make “individual arrangements.”

“A further group of Anglicans, we think, will begin to form a caravan, rather like the People of Israel crossing the desert in search of the Promised Land,” they commented.

The two bishops suggested Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, as an appropriate day for priests and laity to make an “initial decision” about whether to “explore further” Pope Benedict’s proposal.

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Sudanese bishop warns war could return as secession vote nears

Khartoum, Sudan, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - A Sudanese bishop has warned that the country could return to war, with tensions apparently increasing. “Something is in the air,” he said, noting reports that military groups are arming themselves in the run-up to the referendum on secession between the north and south.

“It needs just one single shot to explode and we will go back to the bush,” Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, Sudan told Aid to the Church in Need.

He noted reports that both the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army and the military in Khartoum are arming themselves.

“To see arms being amassed, to see military preparations being made – is this an indication of a peaceful mind? It indicates that something is in the air,” he commented.

Parts of the Nuba Mountains, which were previously evacuated by the Khartoum government, are currently occupied by the state military.

The bishop voiced concerns that the census to register the number of voters and to apportion power between the regions has not been conducted properly. He told ACN he has not seen the census being conducted.

Describing the popular local feeling for secession he said: “In Nuba people say: ‘we don’t want anything to do with the north,’ but it’s going to be hard because the oil is going to play an important role.”

Bishop Gassis told ACN that people in the south claim that the Khartoum-based Government of National Unity is not giving them their fair share of the oil.

He predicted it “isn’t going to be easy” if the south wants secession. “I don’t know how our people will face another armed struggle -- it is always the elderly, women and children who suffer,” he added.

The prelate recounted how he had lived through three aerial raids during the civil war:

“It is terrible to be at the mercy of the planes flying above you – the only thing to do is lie down as flat as a pancake and hope that the bomb does not hit you – you’re completely helpless.

“We thank God for the fact that aerial bombing has stopped – but at the back of our minds is the question will 2011 bring a peaceful solution for the people of Sudan?”

“We are in the hands of God. We ask God to save us from breaking down and going back to the gun – the gun will not solve the problem.”

Bishop Gassis described ACN as among the Church in Sudan’s “biggest partners” and thanked the charity for its help. ACN has provided transportation for priests to visit remote villages, faith education in schools, and building convents and presbyteries.

He expressed Sudanese Catholics’ “heartfelt gratitude” to ACN donors, adding, “We are walking together hand in hand to bring a message of peace, justice, and love.”

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Mother of ten to be honored for philanthropic leadership in Catholic education

Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - A philanthropic mother of ten and grandmother of 28 will be honored for her work at the upcoming Tenth Annual Awards for Outstanding Catholic Leadership.

The Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI) will present the award to Barbara Henkels on Nov. 13 in Drexel Hill, Penn.

CLI reports that Mrs. Henkels, with her late husband Paul, has worked “tirelessly” to promote “authentic Catholic education.” She has helped found two private Catholic elementary schools in the Philadelphia area and is a founding board member of Ave Maria University in Florida.

Mrs. Henkels also has served on a number of Catholic leadership boards, such as those of Cabrini College, St. Thomas Aquinas College and International Legatus. She is a past recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice papal medal and the Philopatrian St. John Newman Medal.

“Barbara's commitment to Catholic leadership has inspired those in her hometown, the country and the world,” CLI said.

The institute will also honor Archbishop of Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, internationally known retreat leader for priests Sr. Briege McKenna, OSC, and former U.S. Vatican Ambassador James Nicholson.

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Supreme Court intervenes in favor of traditional marriage backers in Washington state

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Backers of Referendum 71, a Washington measure seeking to protect traditional marriage in the state, say that Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to block the internet publication of petition signers will protect them from the harassment that targeted supporters of California’s Proposition 8.

By an 8-1 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked Washington state officials while it decides whether to take up the request by Protect Marriage Washington, which is appealing a decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice John Paul Stevens was the only member of the court who voted to turn down the stay request.

Referendum 71 asks voters to approve or reject what some call the “everything but marriage” law, which grants registered domestic partners the same legal rights as married couples. Most domestic partners are homosexual couples, but opposite-sex seniors can also register as domestic partners.

Backers of the referendum say they fear harassment from homosexual rights supporters, some of whom have pledged to post the names of petition signers on the internet.

According to the Associated Press, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed said the state respects the fact that opponents of disclosure are getting their full day in court. He also said his agency will do its “very best” to uphold voters’ desire for “transparent and accountable government.”

In a Tuesday press release from Protect Marriage Washington, the organization’s lead counsel James Bopp, Jr. said the Supreme Court took a “large step forward” in protecting the free speech of citizens who support a traditional definition of marriage.

“No citizen should ever have their personal property destroyed or receive death threats for exercising their right to engage in the political process. The First Amendment protects citizens from government compelled disclosure of their identity when they are engaged in political speech.”

Bopp added that the Supreme Court appears to recognize the “gravity” of the situation and said Protect Marriage Washington looks forward to the court’s review of the appeal.

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Bolivian bishops’ press office criticizes Chavez for verbal attacks against Bolivian journalist

La Paz, Bolivia, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - The press office of the Bolivian bishops' conference criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his verbal attacks against a Bolivian reporter at the conclusion of the ALBA summit last weekend.

The Bolivian reporter asked the Venezuelan president if he would be financially contributing to the campaign of the current Bolivian President Evo Morales in December.  In response, Chavez accused the journalist of “being sent here by someone,” and told her that her question was “immoral and “full of lies.”

He added that he supports Morales with his whole “heart and soul.”

“The disproportionate remarks by President Hugo Chavez against a journalist who was only doing his job were an abuse of power and a lack of respect for journalistic work of the Bolivian press. His conduct was highly objectionable,” the statement said.

The press office also expressed concern “for this aggression that damages the dignity of Bolivian journalists, harms the basis of democracy and offends the sovereignty of the Bolivian people.”

The statement went on to demand that reporters be treated with dignity and respect, and that the right to freedom of expression be protected.

The 7th Summit of the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) was held Oct. 15-17  in Cochabamba, Bolivia.   ALBA was created in 2004 in opposition to U.S. free trade agreements in the region.

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Argentinean archbishop encourages seeking truth to obtain justice and peace

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - This week Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata encouraged Argentineans to seek out  truth, because only truth will bring about justice, the basis for peace in society.

“It is necessary to be converted to the truth in order to live in justice, in order to have a correct understanding of what is just and to do what is just.  Only then we will be able to enjoy peace,” the archbishop said during his program, Keys to a Better World.

“Man is made for the truth, for justice,” he continued, “but justice alone is not enough.  We need a little bit more, we need love, solidarity, charity and friendship. Then we will be able to enjoy peace,” he explained.

Archbishop Aguer warned that if a person cannot be himself and his rights are not respected, “he will demand what he deserves.  When these unjust relationships multiply, a climate in which there is a lack of peace is created,” the archbishop said.

Ensuring justice in society “is a very complex task,” he continued, “which belongs first of all to those in political leadership, but in a certain sense it also belongs to all citizens, to all the inhabitants of a given nation,” he stated.

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Synod Fathers draft final message on Church in Africa

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - As the Synod for Africa winds down, the hundreds of bishops in attendance voted on the final message to be given to the Holy Father, who will then use it to draft an apostolic exhortation. The message urges  Catholics in public life to live out their faith, denounces the influence of international corporations and ideologies and calls for inter-religious cooperation.

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, South Africa served as president of the assembly as the first version of the final message was presented and voted upon.

In a section of the message titled, “The Church in Africa,” the prelates stated that, “We are convinced that the first and most specific contribution of the Church to the people of Africa is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ,” a message that they said will truly strengthen the unity of all Africans.

The Synod endorsed several ways of improving the governance and management of the Church, as well as working to improve the catechesis of the laity, particularly the youth.

The message spoke of the Church's “deep affection” for the lay faithful of Africa, noting that, “It is in and through you that the life and witness of the Church are made visible to the world.”

“Allow your Christian faith to permeate every aspect and facet of your lives; in the family, at work, in the professions, in politics and public life,” the bishops exhorted, encouraging the laity to “access the means of grace, through prayer and the Sacraments.”

Politicians were also singled out for a “very important and special message” from the Synod. 

“Africa needs saints in high political office: saintly politicians who will cleanse the continent of corruption, work for the good of the people, and know how to galvanize other men and women of good will from outside the Church to join hands against the common evils that beset our nations.”

Turning to the scandal caused by Catholic politicians who have “fallen woefully short in their performance in office,” the bishops called on them to “repent, or quit the public arena and stop causing havoc to the people and giving the Catholic Church a bad name.”

Aware of the forces at work to spread abortion and other “virulent ideological poisons from abroad,” the Synod urged the Catholic families of Africa to be on their guard against these threats.

“You should continue to welcome children as gift from God, and train them in the knowledge and fear of God, to be people of reconciliation, justice and peace in future. ... Poverty often makes parents unable to take good care of their children, with disastrous consequence. ... Most families are asking for just what is enough for survival. They have a right to live,” the message reads.

Young adults were also highlighted as members of the Church that should be given particular attention.
“You are often neglected, left adrift as targets for all kinds of ideologies and sects. You are the ones most often recruited and used for violence. We urge all the local Churches to consider the apostolate to the youth a high priority,” the African prelates said.

International Influence

The Synod Fathers also made sure to speak out on the issue of how international assistance used.

On the topic of HIV/AIDS the bishops stressed that the the Church is “second to none in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the care of people infected and affected by it in Africa.”

However, the Synod, along “with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, seriously warns that the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics. We appeal to all who are genuinely interested in arresting the sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS to recognize the success already obtained by programs that propose abstinence among those not yet married, and fidelity among the married,” they underscored.

“To the great powers of this world, we plead: treat Africa with respect and dignity,” the bishops said, as they addressed the economic situation.

Currently Africa has “unjust structures piled heavily against her,” the message says, adding that recent “turmoil in the financial world shows the need for a radical change of rules.” “But it would be a tragedy if adjustments are made only in the interest of the rich and again at the expense of the poor. Many of the conflicts, wars and poverty of Africa derive mainly from these unjust structures.”

The Synod Fathers also touched on the behavior of multinational corporations, insisting that they “have to stop their criminal devastation of the environment in their greedy exploitation of natural resources. It is short-sighted policy to foment wars in order to make fast gains from chaos, at the cost of human lives and blood. Is there no one out there able and willing to stop all these crimes against humanity?” they asked.

Inter-religious Cooperation

The draft of the final message concluded by noting “the testimony of many Synod Fathers who have successfully walked the road of dialogue with Muslims” as well as African Traditional Religion.
If the many religions of Africa cooperate, they can “contribute greatly towards restoring peace and reconciliation in our nations,” the bishops said.

The Synod also warned that nations that restrict freedom of religion undermine sincere dialogue and frustrate genuine collaboration. “Since Christians who decide to change their religion are welcomed into the Muslim fold, there ought to be reciprocity in this matter. Mutual respect is the way forward."

During this afternoon's Nineteenth General Congregation, the presentation of the final list of propositions is due to take place.

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Constitutional Court in Peru admits abortifacient effect of morning-after pill

Lima, Peru, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Peru’s Constitutional Court has ruled against the distribution of the “morning-after pill” at public health care facilities because the abortifacient effect of the drug has not been ruled out.

According to the public relations office of the Court, the justices hold that “the inexistence of the abortifacient effect, the inhibition of the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the endometrium, has not been demonstrated.”

The court accepted the arguments of various NGOs after evaluating the arguments presented by  national and international institutions and found that supporters of the pill could not prove that it does not affect the right to life of the unborn, which is protected by the Peruvian Constitution.

The court's ruling bans the free distribution of the morning-after pill in public health care facilities, however the drug can still be sold in pharmacies as long as consumers are provided with information on the drug’s potential abortifacient nature.

According to Carlos Polo, director of the Office for Latin America of the Population Research Institute (PRI), the court “has acted correctly because it put things into proper perspective. The promoters and sellers of the pill needed to show that the anti-implantation effect did not exist and they could not do so.” 

PRI is one the organizations cited in the court’s ruling.

“The ruling reproduces the complete texts of the literature that accompanies the drug in various countries where the anti-implantation effect is accepted. It cites the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is a point of reference for pharmacology worldwide.  This simple affirmation is something the previous Ministers of Health simply refused to accept—starting with Pilar Mazzetti—for obvious ideological reasons and for the benefit of the pharmaceutical laboratory that owns the brand Postinor,” Polo said.

The ruling coincides with similar rulings in Ecuador, Argentina and recently in Chile,” he added.

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Colombia’s Council of State suspends regulations permitting abortion

Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Colombia’s Council of State has provisionally suspended regulations allowing abortions to be performed in the country, thus prohibiting any clinic from performing the procedure until its legal status is resolved.

According to several media reports, the decision by the Council of State does not overrule the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2006 to legalize abortion in cases of rape, fetal deformation or life of the mother.

The decision is part of an order to examine a request that the high court’s ruling be overturned.  The Council will determine whether or not the regulations should be enshrined in law by the Congress.

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Archbishop Burke named to Congregation for Bishops

Vatican City, Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Former Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke has been appointed to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, it was announced last Saturday.

The congregation is responsible for giving recommendations to the Pope on who should be a candidate to serve as a Catholic bishop. The 61-year-old prelate could have a significant impact on the composition of the future leadership of the Catholic Church, since the appointment lasts for five years and can be renewed until he turns 80.

Archbishop Burke is also prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which is often called the “Vatican's Supreme Court.”

Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia and also a former Archbishop of St. Louis, is another member of the Congregation of Bishops. A total of five Americans have been members of the office.

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was also appointed to the Congregation of Bishops this past Saturday.

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Pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak claims enough votes to stop health care bill over abortion

Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2009 (CNA) - Drawing opposition from pro-abortion politicians and activists, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is leading a coalition of about 40 pro-life Democrats who are petitioning for an opportunity to vote Hyde Amendment-like abortion funding restrictions into the proposed health care reform legislation.

Rep. Stupak is negotiating with Congressional leaders to resolve the dispute. He has threatened to block action on the larger health care reform bill unless he is allowed to offer a stand-alone amendment during floor debate to include the Hyde Amendment, the Associated Press reports.

The amendment would bar federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape and incest or if the mother’s life would be endangered. The amendment applies to Medicaid funding, requiring that states which cover abortion for low-income women can only use state taxpayer money, and not federal funds.

In its current form, the health care reform bill would create a new stream of federal funds outside the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment.

Rep. Stupak has criticized current language that purports to segregate federal funds and funds used in abortions.

"Once you get the affordability credits (subsidies) in there, that's public funding of abortion. We're not going there," Stupak told the Associated Press. "How do you get past the affordability credits is really the issue. And we can't."

Speaking to on Thursday, Stupak said that his group of “about 40 likeminded Democrats” will vote to kill the health-care bill if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) does not allow a floor vote on his amendment.

“We will try to—we, there’s about 40 likeminded Democrats like myself—we’ll try to take down the rule,” Stupak said. “If all 40 of us vote in a bloc against the rule—because we think the Republicans will join us—we can defeat the rule. The magic number is 218. If we can have 218 votes against the rule, we win.”

To block the bill, he must assemble “no” votes on a procedural measure that needs to pass before debate can begin. Stupak says he thinks he can gather about 220 "no" votes.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claimed that everything possible has been done to ensure abortion services will not be federally funded. He said he is working on the issue with Rep. Stupak.

According to the Associated Press, Rep. Waxman said that Rep. Stupak’s preferred provision would deny any subsidy money to any insurance plan that includes abortion coverage. This would deny to women what he said were legal and sometimes medically necessary procedures.

The pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America has criticized the present form of the bill, arguing that it singles out abortion from “other health care services.”

“Apparently it was necessary to stop anti-choice politicians from continuing to use health care reform to attack a woman's right to choose,” the group’s president Nancy Keenan said.

NARAL has sent a letter to supporters singling out Rep. Stupak for criticism and asking them to call congressmen to ensure his defeat.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has said it cannot support a health care reform bill unless the pro-life language is strengthened.

Commenting on Friday, National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) Legislative Director Douglas Johnson said the proposed bill “explicitly authorizes” the public plan to pay for elective abortions.

“Democratic leaders, including President Obama, have claimed that no federal funds would be used to pay for abortions, but this is a deception, because the public plan will be a federal agency program that can spend only federal funds. The federal government would pay abortion providers for performing elective abortions -- a sharp break from decades of federal policy."

“Recent polls show strong public opposition to government funding of abortion and abortion coverage," he added, saying an amendment would be needed to remove abortion from the federal plan.

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