CNA STAFF, Oct 25, 2009 (CNA) - On Thursday, Catholics will celebrate the feast day of Helen Kafka, better known as Blessed Maria Restituta. Working as a nurse in the 1940s, she was ordered by the Gestapo to remove crucifixes she had placed in several hospital rooms and was sentenced to death. Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 21, 1998.
Helen Kafka was born in 1894 to a shoemaker and grew up in Vienna, Austria. At the age of 20, she decided to join the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and took the name Restituta after an early Church martyr.
In 1919, she began working as a surgical nurse in Austria. When the Germans took over the country, she became a local opponent of the Nazi regime. Her conflict with them escalated after they ordered her to remove all the crucifixes she had hung up in each room of a new hospital wing.
Sister Maria Restitua refused and she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942. She was sentenced to death for "aiding and abetting the enemy in the betrayal of the fatherland and for plotting high treason.”
She spent the rest of her days in prison caring for other prisoners, who loved her. The Nazis offered her freedom if she would abandon the Franciscan sisters, but she refused.
She was beheaded March 30, 1943 in Vienna.
Stockholm, Sweden, Oct 25, 2009 (CNA) - The Catholic and Orthodox Churches of Sweden have responded with “sadness” to the Swedish Lutheran Church General Synod’s decision to hold homosexual “weddings” in churches, saying the move departs from the Christian tradition and will widen the gap between the churches.
Fr. Fredrik Emanuelson, head of ecumenical efforts in the Swedish Catholic Church, joined Orthodox representative Fr. Misha Jaksic in a statement that said the churches learned of the Lutherans’ decision “with sadness.”
“It is a swing away not only from Christian tradition but also from the point of view on the nature of marriage which is typical of all religions,” they said, according to SIR News.
The Lutherans’ General Synod expresses a “radically different vision” from the way in which the Church and Christians understand marriage, they added.
The spokesmen said they were not surprised by the decision because it had been preceded by a long debate.
According to SIR, the church debate started at the beginning of 2009 after a Swedish law that granted civil marriage to homosexuals took effect.
“None of us want to annul ecumenical dialogue with the Swedish church,” the joint Catholic-Orthodox statement continued. “However, this decision of the Church of Sweden widens the gap.”
The statement concluded by saying that talks are “more important than ever” to fulfill Christ’s desire for Christian unity.
The Church of Sweden is the largest Christian denomination in the Nordic country.
Portland, Maine, Oct 25, 2009 (CNA) - As the date approaches for the same-sex "marriage" referendum vote in Maine, Stand for Marriage Maine is stressing the repercussions of a "no" vote and the importance of fundraising to spread their message. The organization is increasing advertising time in local media outlets leading up to the vote, but trails the opposition in financial contributions by a large margin.
Question 1 on Maine´s November 3rd election ballot will read: People´s Veto: "Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"
According to Mark Mutty, campaign chairman for Stand for Marriage Maine (SFMM), “Question 1 is about the definition of marriage, plain and simple. If it fails, and homosexual marriage is legalized in Maine, it will have great consequence for society, particularly for those who conscientiously object to this new definition.
“If what has happened in other states is any guide,” Mutty warned, “children will be taught in public schools that 'same-sex marriage' is the same as traditional marriage. Advocates for this agenda will fight to even prevent parents from having advance notice of such instruction, or from having the right to withhold their children from such teaching.”
Protect Equality Maine, which supports same-sex “marriage,” countered the ads, calling them distortions and unfounded.
Mutty also reflected on the values being promoted by supporters of same-sex “marriage.”
“The values behind the effort to change the definition of marriage into a genderless contract that places adult-centric interests before the optimal outcomes for children are not values that are shared by the majority of Mainers, religious or otherwise,” he said.
CNA talked to Scott Fish, the Director of Communications at SFMM.
"Marriage will be radically redefined as the relationship between two people," with no regard to gender. He said that this would change the legal and cultural environment in Maine. "Bride and groom, for example, will become gender-neutral terms."
"We see it as a huge cultural shift."
When asked what SFMM was doing to prepare for the coming election, Fish responded, "We´ve been working hard in two areas: getting out the vote... and informing the people."
According to Fish, the opposition is treating this referendum not as "a silo issue," but that "it´s being used to create national momentum." He pointed to the fact that same-sex “marriage” supporters from across the nation have thrown their financial heft behind the effort.
"The opposition has received contributions from organizations and individuals in 46 states and territories," he stated.
"We have been outraised by 3-to-1."
Fish called the lack of national contributions for the "yes" vote "puzzling."
However, Stand for Marriage Maine is still increasing their advertising time in local media as the referendum election date nears.
Another influential factor in the election is that there will be 5 measures on the ballot this year in Maine, a fact that Fish called “unusual." As a result, voter turnout might be higher than it would be otherwise, considering there are no officials up for election. Among these measures is a taxpayer bill of rights and another that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Maine historically records high voter turnout, with 72.4% of the population voting in the 2008 general elections.
Question 1 is backed by Stand for Marriage Maine, whose website is at http://www.standformarriagemaine.com.
Vatican City, Oct 25, 2009 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict XVI’s homily for the close of the Synod of Bishops for Africa concluded with him saying that the Lord of history does not tire of renewing oppressed humanity since the time of Moses. “Rise up, African continent, the land which received the Savior as a child had to flee with Joseph and Mary to Egypt so as to save his life from the persecution of King Herod,” Pope Benedict proclaimed.
Benedict XVI’s homily turned to Sunday’s first reading from Jeremiah. In the Book of Lamentations, there is an announcement of hope for the people of Israel, laid low by the invasion of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple and the deportation to Babylon.
In the Gospel, Jesus encounters Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight, along the road to Jerusalem. “God is light and creator of light,” the Pope explained. “Man is the son of light, made to see light, but has lost his sight and wanders.”
“Brothers, we give thanks because this ‘mysterious meeting of our poverty and the greatness’ of God is realized also in the Synodal Assembly for Africa, which today concludes,” he added. “God has renewed his call: ‘Courage! Rise up…”
“And also the Church in Africa, through the bishops, come from all the Countries of the Continent, from Madagascar and the other islands, has received the message of hope and light to walk the way leading to the Kingdom of God,” the Holy Father continued. “Bartimaeus becomes a witness to the light, giving a firsthand account of healing, renewal, regeneration.”
“This is the Church in the world, a community of persons reconciled, workers of justice and peace, ‘salt and light’ amid a society of men and nations… Moving testimony has demonstrated to us that even in these most dark moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming the hearts of victims and persecutors so that they recognize brothers.”
The Pontiff directed the synod fathers to the example of the encyclical “Populorum progressio,” in which the Servant of God Pope Paul VI explained the principle of promoting a respectful development of local culture and locale. Pope Benedict added, “After more than forty years, this appears to be the only logic capable of freeing the African people from the slavery of hunger and sickness.”
Before the Angelus prayer, Pope Benedict spoke of the rich reality of the local Churches represented by the Synod Fathers. Animated by the Word of God and the Eucharist, he explained, the Church works so that “no one is without the necessities to live and so that all can have an existence worthy of a human being.”
Benedict XVI said he shared the joys of the Christian communities, “which continue to grow in quantity and quality.” He added, “Naturally, the actual problems of Africa and the great needs of reconciliation, justice and peace were immersed in the Assembly.”
“Today I desire to address all the African populations, especially those that share the Christian faith, so as to ideally entrust to them the ‘Final Message’ of the Synodal Assembly,” the Holy Father stated. “Dear brothers and sisters who hear me in Africa, I entrust in a special way to your prayers the fruit of this work of the Synod Fathers and I encourage you with the words of the Lord Jesus: You are the salt and light of the beloved African land!”
The Holy Father concluded by recalling next year’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, for which the “instrumentum laboris” will be presented during his visit to Cyprus.
After the Angelus prayer, the Pontiff extended his greeting to thousands of faithful who were gathered outside of Milan’s cathedral for the beatification of Father Carlo Gnocchi.
“Father Gnocchi worked ‘to restore the human person,’ gathering children orphaned and mutilated by the Second World War and offering them help and education. He gave his all until the very end and dying, donated his corneas to two blind children. His work has continued to develop and today the Father Gnocchi Foundation offers rehabilitation therapy to needy people of all ages. While I greet Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, and rejoice with the entire Ambrosian Church, I make my own the theme of this beatification: ‘Alongside life, forever.’”