Archive of November 22, 2009

Diocesan conference on forgiveness features Immaculée Ilibagiza

Worcester, Mass., Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - Immaculée Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwanda genocide in 1994 addressed participants at the Diocese of Worcester's women's conference held last Saturday. The theme of the sold-out conference was, “The Triumph of Forgiveness – Sharing Stories of Compassion” and featured Ilbagiza as well as a woman whose husband and child were killed in a car wreck.

Forgiving freed keynote speaker Paula D’Arcy, who told of finding God’s love through the drunken driver she thought took love from her.

In 1975 she was happily married with a daughter almost two and a second on the way, she said. Then the accident killed her husband and toddler, sparing her life and that of her unborn child.

“I would ask God, ‘Why do you hate me?’” she said. “Nothing mattered… Not my education…success…” She had spent her life making small issues a matter of life and death, and now she faced life and death, she said. Now she felt God telling her to want him most, and she said a small “yes.”

In a conversation with Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale she told him she lost life’s purpose when her family died.

“That was the purpose you wanted, but life has a different purpose and your challenge is to find it,” he responded. “What you’re looking for, you already have.”

She quoted a friend, Father Richard Rohr, who said, “No change begins with ‘no’” and “Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.”

She took to heart the words of these counselors.

She prayed for the drunken driver, feeling nothing. She decided not to speak or think negatively about him, and eventually felt neutral. Then she met him.

“Something shifted,” she said. “I felt as if I had been suddenly overtaken by love … I was looking at something I was.”

She had to confront her sense of rightness, and surrender to God, and life as it was handed to her, because God was in that life, she said.

In court the driver lied, and, when asked about her suffering, replied, “Everybody’s got problems.” But as long as she looked at him, she felt God’s love revealed.

“What we open to today is what we’re opening to in life,” she said.

Ms. Ilibagiza, a Tutsi, said it is a joy to share lessons of the genocide Hutus inflicted on her tribe, so good can come from bad.

The Blessed Mother had appeared in Rwanda, saying something horrible would happen if people did not return to God, and they could prevent it by praying the rosary, but they didn’t listen, she said.

Ms. Ilibagiza said people were praying for the Rwandan president to die, rather than believing God could change him. When he died, the genocide began.

She hid with others in a bathroom as neighbors with weapons searched the house.

“They will kill you,” a voice in her head said.

“Ask God to help you,” said another voice. “He can do anything.”

Ms. Ilibagiza said she almost lost her faith, and begged God for a sign: Don’t let the killers find the bathroom door. They searched the house thoroughly, giving up just before entering the bathroom.

She read the Bible, prayed the rosary, pondered eternity and asked God to show her how to forgive the killers, she said. She realized that, like Jesus’ executioners, those killing in her country didn’t know what they were doing.

Emerging from hiding, she learned that her family members had been among one million people killed in three months, she said.

“I’m so sure there’s heaven,” she says now. God is there. If he doesn’t give you what you want, he gives you something better.

She wrote her story, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.” She said if she can forgive, anyone can, and urged: If forced to choose between being kind and being right, be kind.

Following her story she distributed gifts – her books, CD, a rosary – as women in the audience raised their hands to be chosen.

Alemattu Bility, from Guinea and Liberia, was given an “Our Lady of Kibeho” CD.

“I came from civil war too,” in Liberia, but didn’t lose all family members, the Rhode Island resident said. She said she cried when she heard Ms. Ilibagiza was coming here.
“It just felt good to be in her presence,” she said, expressing gratitude that she inspires others to forgive, something she doesn’t know if she’s yet achieved.

Printed with permission from The Catholic Free Press, newspaper for the Diocese of Worcester, Mass.

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Church to celebrate feast of saint to whom Mary gave the Miraculous Medal

CNA STAFF, Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - On November 28, the Church will honor St. Catherine Laboure, the humble Daughter of Charity to whom Mary appeared, requesting that the Miraculous Medal be stamped so that all who wear it would receive great graces.

Saint Catherine Laboure was born in France on May 2, 1806. She was the ninth of 11 children.  Upon her mother’s death, when Catherine was eight years old, the young girl assumed the responsibilities of the household. It was said of her that she was very quiet and practical.

She became a Daughter of Charity, and when she was a novice, at 24 years of age, the Virgin Mary appeared to her for the first time. Later, Mary appeared once again and requested that Catherine have a medal struck portraying Mary just as she appeared.

It took two years before Catherine was able to convince her spiritual director to have the medal struck. Eventually, 2,000 medals were made. Their dispersal was so rapid and effective that it was said to be miraculous itself.

After the visions ceased, St. Catherine Laboure spent the rest of her life as the portress and worked with the sick in humble and obedient service n a convent outside Paris. She spent that time in silence, not telling her superior that she was the one to whom Mary appeared and gave the medal until 45 years after the fact.

She died in Paris on December 31, 1876 and was canonized in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.  Her incorrupt body lies in the crypt of the convent.

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Science proves adult stem cells more promising than embryonic, says Vatican official

Rome, Italy, Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, said this week that the work by two scientists has shown adult stem cells to be much more promising for medical treatment than embryonic stem cells. The use of adult stem cells poses no ethical difficulties and has already contributed to advancing treatments for degenerative diseases.

In an article published by L’Osservatore Romano, the archbishop cited the work of two scientists, James Thomson of the United States and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan.  The Japanese scientist was able to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from adult cells, first doing so with cells from mice and then later using human skin cells.

Archbishop Fisichella underscored that “the technique for producing iPS cells has allowed something to happen that was unthinkable in the field of cellular biology: to convert differentiated adult stem cells into immature, undifferentiated cells of an embryonic type.” Currently, he underscored, “nearly 300 labs throughout the world are studying these cells and what is significant is that numerous research teams have moved from the study of embryonic cells to the study of iPS cells.”

Adult stem cells outweigh embryonic stem cells in three ways, the archbishop continued.  “The first is in the area of ethics, as iPS cells are not obtained through the destruction of human embryos (as is the case with embryonic cells.)”  “With the development of iPS cells, the ethical debate that has raged in public opinion, parliaments and the scientific community can now be considered closed,” he said.

The second aspect “has to do with therapeutic applications: iPS cells have the great advantage of having been obtained from cells taken directly from the patient. This means that when they are injected they are compatible with the patient’s own immune system, and thus they are perfectly accepted,” as has been shown in cases involving stem cells taken from the umbilical cord.

The third aspect is that “iPS cells allow for the creation of pathological models,” Archbishop Fisichella said.  “Thanks to Yamanaka, we can speak about the immediate future of generations of cellular models of diseases, in vitro, as the first practical application of this technology.”

The archbishop pointed to recent studies which have shown that iPS cells have been made from the cells of patients who carry the mutated genes that cause sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes and other diseases, resulting in significant advances especially “in pharmacology.”

Archbishop Fisichella also highlighted the international congress “Adult Stem Cells: New Perspectives,” which will be held November 26-28 in Monaco to promote respect for life and the new methods in the field of stem cell research and treatment.

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South Korean obstetricians demand enforcement of abortion law

Seoul, South Korea, Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - Despite South Korea’s prohibition on abortion, some 350,000 abortions still take place annually. Now a group of obstetricians is working to enforce the law, even if the former abortionists among their membership must implicate themselves in their own illegal acts.

The number of abortions in South Korea is only 100,000 fewer than the 450,000 babies usually born each year.

The Korean group of obstetricians called Gynob has launched a movement against abortion, Joon Ang Daily reports. Their spokeswoman, practicing obstetrician Choi Anna, said she intends to advocate against abortion until the practice is entirely wiped out though she has reportedly received death threats from other private obstetricians who say her activities are bad for business.

“Our group has made it clear that we as obstetricians won’t rely on abortion for a living anymore,” Anna said.

The 43-year-old Anna admits to having once profited from abortions at her hospital. She told the Joon Ang Daily that Korean society’s tacit consent to abortion has prompted many obstetricians to secretly provide the procedure.

“The country is now suffering from a low birthrate,” Anna said, attributing it to a past population control policy that encouraged abortion. “The government seems to be reluctant now to clamp down. But we believe when doctors halt abortions, births could increase by more than 100,000 in one to two years.

“If this movement becomes successful, obstetricians won’t have to provide abortions for a living,” she added.

Gynob is planning to send questionnaires on abortion to all government institutions, including the presidential Blue House, and to related research centers.

If the Health Ministry does not launch an investigation into the conducting of abortions for profit, Anna said, her group will try to have the ministry indicted for neglecting its duties.

Members of Gynob are considering implicating themselves for illegal abortions because abortion has a five-year statute of limitation.

“My fellow doctor Shim Sang-deok says our movement may bear fruit after he is imprisoned,” Anna said.

Many practicing obstetricians provide abortions because they are profitable, while delivering babies and providing gynecological treatment are not big moneymakers, Anna explained.

“Doctors performing abortions say they are ashamed to tell their families what they do,” she told the Joon Ang Daily. “When I opened my hospital seven years ago, I wanted to treat patients suffering from sterility, my expertise, but a major portion of my patients were those wanting abortions. I washed my hands countless times after abortion surgeries.”

She said abortion is the “easiest choice” for pregnant Korean women regardless of their wealth, religion or education.

“But post-abortion trauma is gigantic,” Anna added.

Korean law defines abortion as artificially ending the life of an unborn child aged 23 weeks or younger. It allows exceptions if a mother’s life is in jeopardy if she gives birth and in case where women are victims of rape or incest or have infectious or genetically-based mental illnesses.

Both abortionists and the women who seek abortions are subject to prison terms of up to two years, but few have ever been punished, the Joon Ang Daily reports.

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Christ the King brings peace and defeats the 'dominion of death,’ Pope Benedict says

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - In his message on the Feast of Christ the King to the tens of thousands of people gathered on St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI explained that the "power" of Christ is different from that of "the great of this world." Choosing Christ the King, he said, does not guarantee success, but peace and joy.
"Choosing Christ does not guarantee success according to the criteria of today’s world, but ensures that peace and joy that only He can give,” Pope Benedict added. “This is shown, in every age, by the experience of many men and women who, in Christ's name, in the name of truth and justice, have been able to resist the lure of earthly powers, with their different forms, until their fidelity was sealed with martyrdom.”
The Feast of Christ the King, he continued, is "a celebration of relatively recent introduction, but it has deep biblical and theological roots."

"It begins with the expression ‘King of the Jews' arriving then to that of ‘universal King,’ Lord of the cosmos and of history, so far beyond the expectation of the same Jewish people."
Benedict XVI expounded on the regal power of Jesus: “It is not that of the kings and great of this world, it is the divine power to give eternal life to free us from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of love, which knows how to derive good from evil, soften a hardened heart, bring peace to the bitterest conflict, turn the thickest darkness into hope.”
“This kingdom of grace cannot impose anything, and always respects our freedom,” he added. “Christ came to 'bear witness to the truth', as stated before Pilate. Whoever receives his testimony, comes under his ‘banner,’ according to an image that was dear to St. Ignatius of Loyola.”
“Choosing Christ,” the Pope concluded, “does not guarantee success according to the criteria of this world, but ensures that peace and joy that only He can give."
After the Angelus, the Holy Father commemorated the beatification in Nazareth on Sunday of Sr. Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, in the presence of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, and the prefect for the Congregation of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato.
Sr. Marie-Alphonsine was born in Jerusalem in 1843 into a Christian family, which included nineteen children. “She discovered her vocation to religious life early on, and passionately pursued it despite initial difficulties raised by her family,” the Pontiff said.
“To her goes the credit of founding a congregation formed only of local women, with the aim of religious education, to overcome illiteracy and raise the conditions of women of that time in the land where Jesus exalts his dignity. The Central point of this new spirituality and intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the beacon of life wholly consecrated to God was the Holy Rosary, her constant prayer, her lifeline, her source of grace.”
“The beatification of this most significant female figure is of particular comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land and is an invitation to trust always, with firm hope, in Divine Providence and the maternal protection of Mary,” Pope Benedict concluded.
Also, Benedict XVI recalled yesterday’s “Pro Orantibus” Day, dedicated to cloistered religious communities, on the day of Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple.

"I welcome the chance,” he added, “to extend my cordial greetings to them and renew my invitation to all to support them in their needs. I am also glad, on this occasion to publicly thank the nuns who have in turn occupied the small monastery here in the Vatican: the Poor Clares, Carmelites, Benedictines and, recently, the Visitation sisters. Your prayer, dear sisters, is most valuable to my ministry."

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Bishop Tobin expresses disappointment with Rep. Kennedy for going public on Communion decision

Providence, R.I., Nov 22, 2009 (CNA) - In a strong response to Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s public revelation that he has been banned from Communion for his stand on abortion, the Bishop of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, expressed his “disappointment” and “surprise” at Kennedy’s decision to make public a matter that was private and aimed at his spiritual well-being.

In an interview published on Sunday by the Providence Journal, Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island), son of the late Edward Kennedy, said that “the bishop instructed me not to take Communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me Communion.”

Kennedy also said that Bishop Tobin allegedly explained the penalty by telling him “that I am not a good practicing Catholic because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official.”

The congressman declined to say whether he has obeyed the Bishop’s request.

Later in the day, Bishop Tobin issued a statement clarifying the terms of his decision.

“I am disappointed and really surprised that Congressman Patrick Kennedy has chosen to reopen the public discussion about his practice of the faith and his reception of Holy Communion. This comes almost two weeks after the Congressman indicated to local media that he would no longer comment publicly on his faith or his relationship with the Catholic Church,” Bishop Tobin wrote.

Bishop Tobin said that on February 21, 2007, he wrote to Congressman Kennedy stating that “in light of the Church's clear teaching, and your consistent actions, therefore, I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.

“My request came in light of the new statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that said, ‘If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definite teachings on moral issues, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the Church. Reception of Holy Communion in such a situation would not accord with the nature of the Eucharistic celebration, so that he or she should refrain.’”

In the same letter, Bishop Tobin wrote to Congressman Kennedy: "I am writing to you personally and confidentially as a pastor addressing a member of his flock . . . At the present time I have no need or intention to make this a public issue.”

On February 28, 2007, the Congressman responded to the Bishop stating: “I have the utmost respect for the work you do on behalf of the Catholic community in Rhode Island… I understand your pastoral advice was confidential in nature and given with the best intentions for my personal spiritual welfare.”

“I am disappointed that the Congressman would make public my pastoral and confidential request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being,” the bishop wrote in his Sunday statement.

Bishop Tobin explained that he has “no desire” to discuss Congressman Kennedy's spiritual life in public.

“At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry. It should be absolutely clear the Congressman himself has once again chosen to make this discussion a matter of public record. In the meantime, I will continue to pray - sincerely and fervently - for his conversion and repentance, and for his personal and spiritual well-being. I wish him well.” 

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