Archive of October 26, 2009

Church doesn’t seek to impose religion on schools, says Venezuelan bishop

Caracas, Venezuela, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Venezuelan bishops' committee on education, Bishop Jose Angel Divasson, said last week that the Catholic Church does not seek to impose Catholic education on schools but only asks that the religious dimension of each person be respected.

Speaking to the newspaper El Carabobeno, Bishop Divasson also remarked that the family, as well as other institutions in society can help schools ensure that each student's “religious dimension” is respected.

The bishop’s comments came during an extraordinary meeting of the bishops to analyze Venezuela’s new law on education.

“We want to continue in this discussion, but we think there is still a long way to go because several laws have yet to be passed.”  Divasson then noted that the current law recently passed “has many flaws.”

“We hope the government realizes this and seeks out alternatives that benefit all of Venezuela and not just a single group,” the bishop concluded.

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Pope fills Justice and Peace post with African cardinal

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has tapped Cardinal Peter Turkson from Cape Coast, Ghana on Saturday to serve as the new head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Turkson will replace Cardinal Renato Martino, who is two years past the mandatory retirement age.

At the age of 61, Cardinal Turkson will ensure that the Justice and Peace post is filled for quite some time. The Ghanaian cardinal is often described as a rising star in Church circles, having been appointed the Archbishop of Cape Coast at the young age of 44 and then made a cardinal 11 years later.

Cardinal Turkson has also served in a prominent role at the just-completed Synod for Africa, which concluded on Saturday.

The African cardinal will replace Cardinal Renato Martino, who has served in the post since 2002. According to a Vatican communique, the Holy Father welcomed his resignation upon having reached the age limit.

Prior to his service at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Council Pastoral Care for Migrants and Intinerants, Cardinal Martino was the Holy See's representative to the United Nations in New York from 1986-2002.

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Vatican begins dialogue with Society of St. Pius X

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - A meeting today between representatives of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and officials from the Vatican identified the doctrinal differences that still separate the Society from the Roman Catholic Church. The gathering also served to identify the manner and structure of future discussions between the two groups.

Though Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of four Lefebvrist bishops earlier this year, he also told the bishops of the world that “until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.”

Today the representatives of the SSPX and the Vatican agreed that they would focus their dialogue on the concepts of Tradition, the Paul VI missal, religious freedom, the relationship between Christian and non-Christian religions, Catholic principles of ecumenism, themes regarding the unity of the Church, and the interpretation of the documents of Vatican II in continuity with Catholic doctrine.

The themes will be examined over the next few months, probably in bi-monthly discussions. 

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'Race toward WYD 2011 Madrid has begun,' declares Cardinal Rouco

Madrid, Spain, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid greeted a large group of young Catholics gathered at the headquarters of the World Youth Day 2011 organizing committee last Friday.

Cardinal Rouco Varela addressed the youth saying, “Today begins the race towards WYD, an extraordinary event in which we will be able to experience the universality of the Church, in union with the Pope…with more than a thousand bishops from all over the world, thousands of priests, consecrated men and women, parents, boys and girls, and especially many young people from all over the world.”

Cardinal Rivera reminded the youth of the two great objectives of WYD:

The first, he explained, is to promote “a great encounter of young people with the Lord, that with their faith they might make visible the theme of WYD, ‘Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith'.”

The second objective is “to show the world the testimony of young people in the Church who demonstrate that they know Christ and that following Him is the best path to give life meaning and to be truly happy.”

Cardinal Rouco encouraged those present, including leaders of the organizing committee, their collaborators and many volunteers, to carry out their tasks with the dedication of St. Paul and to bear  difficulties and crosses with joy in order to achieve the goal.

This is “a grace as well as a great challenge for Madrid, which we take up with enthusiasm and a spirit of service and humility,” the cardinal said.

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Colombian official calls on court to overturn decision requiring schools to teach abortion is a 'right'

Bogotá, Colombia, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - Colombia’s Attorney General, Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado, announced that he would be asking the country’s Constitutional Court to overturn a ruling that would force schools to teach students that abortion is a right.
Ordonez remarked that he would challenge the ruling ordering the Ministries of Social Protection and of Education to promote massive campaigns related to sexual and reproductive rights, especially in regard to abortion.

For his part, the secretary general of the Colombian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Villota, said, “Catholic educators are not going to teach this.  We are going to teach the respect for life.”

Bishop Cordoba noted that both rabbis and Christian leaders in Colombia share the same view as the Catholic Church.  “We emphatically reject this ruling.  We are not going to defy any order, but rather as Catholics, Christians or Jews we cannot be forced to accept it.”

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Church of England bishop says 'Anglican experiment is over'

London, England, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - Members of the traditionalist Anglican group Forward in Faith recently concluded their annual gathering, which was dedicated to discussing Pope Benedict's overture to Anglicans. The general impression left by the conference was the “Anglican experiment is over,” a mood that was reinforced by Bishop John Hind officially announcing he is ready to become Catholic.

The 2009 National Assembly of Forward in Faith was held in the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, London, October 23-24. The Assembly was originally scheduled before the Vatican announced its unprecedented move, but the issue dominated most of the discussion.

Speaking to the press during the event, the Right  Reverend John Hind, Anglican Bishop of Chichester, announced he is considering becoming a Roman Catholic.

Hind, the most senior traditionalist in the Church of England, told “The Telegraph” that he is willing to sacrifice his salary and palace residence to join the Catholic Church. 

“This is a remarkable new step from the Vatican,” he said. “At long last there are some choices for Catholics in the Church of England. I'd be happy to be re-ordained into the Catholic Church.”

The bishop said that he expects his previous ministry will be recognized in the Catholic Church, but stressed that the divisions in the Anglican Communion could make it impossible to stay. “How can the Church exist if bishops are not in full communion with each other?” he asked.

During the conference, the Right Reverend John Broadhurst, who is the Anglican Bishop of Fulham and the Primate of Forward in Faith, affirmed that “the Anglican experiment is over.”

Bishop Broadhurst said that Pope Benedict has made his offer in response to the pleas of Anglicans who despair at the disintegration of their Church. “Anglicanism has become a joke because it has singularly failed to deal with any of its contentious issues,” said the bishop.

“There is widespread dissent across the [Anglican] Communion. We are divided in major ways on major issues and the Communion has unraveled.  I believed in the Church I joined, but it has been revealed to have no doctrine of its own.  I personally think it has gone past the point of no return. The Anglican experiment is over.”

In an emotional closing speech on Saturday, Bishop Broadhurst used the metaphor of the frog and the boiling pot to describe the current Anglican status.

"The temperature at the pot has become intolerable, but the process of boiling started before the ordination of women… The truth is, the tragedy for us is the Church of England has presumed. It's presumed to know better than the tradition on many matters and it's presumed to know better than Jesus Christ about some matters,” he explained.

“And It is the presumption of our Church in this present period that has caused such pain and anguish to many of us.

“Oh yes, the ordination of women was the water being turned up; we knew that we were going to be cooked to death ...

“And what the general (Anglican) Synod did, was to say, ‘We will push the pot towards the edge of the gas, as long as you stay on this side of the pot, with a few ice cubes, it'll be all right,’” Bishop Broadhurst said.

Then he explained: “We've never claimed that Anglicanism is the Church of Jesus Christ, and we've always claimed and believed that there needs to be catholic unity.” 

“This is about Anglicans in communion with Rome and not about Anglicans ceasing to be Roman Catholics,” he also said.

The Right Reverend Martyn Jarrett, Anglican Bishop of Beverley, also insisted on the fact that “there are questions over the church's survival,” explaining that the Church of England has changed too dramatically for some traditionalists.

“The offer from the Vatican is momentous and I felt a great sense of gratitude that the Roman Catholic Church is thinking about the position of traditionalist Anglicans,” he added.

Another participant at the “Forward in Faith” conference, Fr. Edward Tomlinson, Anglican Vicar of St. Barnabas, said that he would be following the lead of Bishop Hind.

“The ship of Anglicanism seems to be going down... We should be grateful that a lifeboat has been sent. I shall be seeking to move to Rome. To stay in the Church of England would be suicide,” Fr. Tomlinson said.

Forward in Faith is a worldwide association of close to 1,000 clergy and thousands of lay Anglicans founded in 1992 in opposition to the ordination of women as priests or as bishops, and most recently, to the ordination of active homosexuals. The association says that it finds such practices not only “contrary to the Scriptures as they have been consistently interpreted by the two thousand year tradition of the churches of both East and West,” but also as a “new and serious obstacle in the way of reconciliation and full visible unity between Anglicans and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.”

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Synod for Africa sends Pope 57 propositions

Vatican City, Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops closed yesterday after meeting almost continuously since October 4 to discuss the  future of the Church in Africa. The Synod for Africa concluded on Saturday with Pope Benedict being presented the 57 propositions drawn up and approved by the Synod Fathers.

Pope Benedict offered his observations of the proceedings, saying, “the temptation could have been to politicize the theme, to speak less as pastors and more as politicians, and thus in a sphere which is not our own.” 

Despite the “strong political implications” of the subject matter considered by the gathering, the Holy Father returned to his remarks at the opening of the synod, when he said that “reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a profound purification of the heart, without a renewal of the mind, a 'metanoia,' without the newness that arises from the meeting with God.”

To conclude the Synod for Africa, the Synod Fathers voted on a number of propositions, using the answers “placet” or “non placet,” which is Latin for “it pleases” or “it does not please.” The prelates selected 57 propositions to present to the Holy Father, from which he will prepare the final document on the assembly.

The propositions touched on many topics including “greater ecclesial communion at all levels, encouraging cooperation within the Church,” as well as an appeal to all those who are at war in Africa: “stop the hostilities and be reconciled!”

Another theme that was frequently discussed was the environment. Observing that there was “an irresponsible degradation and senseless destruction of the earth, which is 'our mother,'” the Synod Fathers noted  that “some businesses, governments and multinational and trans-national companies engage in business that pollute the environment, destroy flora and fauna, thus causing unprecedented erosion and desertification of large areas of arable land... in complicity with those who exercise political and economic leadership in Africa.”

The bishops also raised their voices on the issues that impact women. They rejected abortion and  so-called reproductive health rights of women, calling instead for the defense of the family and of human life. Additionally, they condemned “all acts of violence against women, such as the battering of wives, the disinheritance of daughters, the oppression of widows in the name of tradition, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, trafficking in women and several other abuses such as sex slavery and sex tourism.”
The Synod Fathers proposed that the Pope consider the “fifteen million migrants who are looking for an homeland and a place of peace,” called for the abolition of the death penalty, and asked that AIDS victims in Africa “receive the same quality of treatment as in Europe.”

Finally, the prelates emphasized the importance of “the professional training and ethical formation of journalists to promote a culture of dialogue which avoids division, sensationalism, disinformation and the offensive trivialization of human suffering, all of which could harm the harmony and peace of societies and communities.”

In a rare move, Pope Benedict has allowed the publication of a provisional and unofficial copy of the proposition as he prepares the final document of the Synod for Africa.

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USCCB did not join FCC petition on hate speech, spokeswoman says

Washington D.C., Oct 26, 2009 (CNA) - The Department of Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said it did not join a petition to the FCC which called for discussion over “hate speech” and its alleged role in violence. Some critics of the petition have cast it as an effort to shut down radio show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

The Department of Communications told CNA on Monday that they had sent their own letter noting the “serious constitutional and regulatory problems” associated with regulating alleged hate speech.

The So We Might See Coalition, of which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Department of Communications is a member, had organized a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. The letter and its related petition asked the FCC to open a “notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media” and to update a 1993 report on the role of telecommunications in hate crimes.

The coalition said it is concerned about the possible connection between “hate speech” and violent crimes. It commented that immigrant, minority and religious segments of the population are often targeted by hate speech before being targeted by physical hate crimes.

The letter noted a June 2006 incident in which four teenagers posed as federal agents and asked two Mexican men for their green cards. The teens then beat and robbed the two men, accusing them of stealing jobs from U.S. citizens.

The coalition letter then noted that the incident occurred after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Mexican immigrants a “renegade, potential crime element that is unwilling to work.” The letter did not indicate any connections between the teens and Limbaugh.

It warned that hate crimes against Hispanics have been increasing, claiming that electronic media have a strong influence on children and teenagers because they are not yet fully developed cognitively.

In a Monday e-mail to CNA, Secretary Helen Osman of the USCCB’s Department of Communications said that although the USCCB is one of the groups in the So We Might See coalition, the USCCB did not join the petition.

“USCCB shares So We Might See's general commitments to improving access to broadband among the under-served; to reducing violence in all media; and to reducing the excess of advertising in children's programming. But USCCB does not join in every action of the group, as in the case of this petition.

“In any event, we are certainly not participating in any campaign to censor any news organization, program or commentator,” she added.

Osman provided CNA with the USCCB’s own letter to the FCC to open an inquiry into hate speech. Such a notice does not result in any new regulations or action by the FCC, she pointed out.

“One reason we are eager to see the inquiry opened is that it will present an occasion to alert the FCC to the serious constitutional and regulatory problems associated with regulating hate speech,” Osman explained.

The USCCB’s July 29 letter to the FCC, signed by Osman, noted the “difficult constitutional and regulatory questions” raised by potential action against hate speech.

In the USCCB’s view, a forum opened by an FCC Notice of Inquiry would help discuss questions such as:

“Depending on the definition of hate speech, would expressions of religious teachings be deemed hate speech? For example, would Roman Catholic teachings on marriage or homosexuality be deemed hate speech by some gay rights advocates? Similarly, some religions may deem the religious beliefs of others to be hateful, but when, if ever, should that characterization bear legal significance?”

The USCCB expressed support for “a broad public forum” in which to debate such issues in “a respectful manner.”

The So We Might See National Interfaith Coalition for Media Justice includes the USCCB’s Department of Communications, the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, Presbyterian News Service, and the Communications Services of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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