Archive of December 9, 2009

Archbishop encourages 'sexual responsibility' to combat AIDS in El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - With many AIDS prevention campaigns relying solely on condom use, Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador has asked the government to promote “sexual responsibility” as the most effect form of preventing the spread of the disease.

“Certain international agencies are regularly promoting campaigns encouraging condom use, but not even one study exists which proves its effectiveness against this disease,” the archbishop explained in a dialogue with the press.

Archbishop Escobar noted that, “in the African countries where they have distributed the most prophylactics, the virus has spread the most.” Therefore, he recommended programs which emphasize “fidelity between spouses, and abstinence between singles.”

“It is the life lived in accordance to that which is moral which really combats the disease,” the prelate stated. He also noted that the campaigns which emphasize condom use “may provoke greater premature sexual activity.”

“It has been shown that condoms do not offer complete security against the transmission of the virus while experts acknowledge that condoms fail more than 20% of the time.” The archbishop recalled that the Catholic Church insists that “the prevention of AIDS requires the responsibility of the carriers, that the youth postpone their sexual relations, that couples remain faithful to each other, and that dangerous or immoral habits must be changed.”

Official statistics state that 22,210 cases of AIDS have been reported in El Salvador since 1984.

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Priest and nun killed in ‘act of barbarism’ in Congo

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - In what the local vicar general called acts of “barbarism,” a priest and a nun have been killed in two separate attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fr. Father Daniel Cizimya Nakamaga, 51, was shot in the head early Sunday when gunmen broke into the presbytery of Kabare, several miles outside the eastern city of Bukavu.

Two days later attackers struck a Trappist monastery just north of Bukavu, killing Sr. Denise Kahambu.

A third person died when police trying to catch the killers fired upon a car containing three possible suspects driving through the area late at night. Two of the suspects in the vehicle were able to escape.

Violence and tensions have increased in the region. The violence is in part directed at Christians, Aid to the Church in Need reports.

Msgr. Pierre Bulambo, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bukavu, said the archdiocese has fallen victim to “an act of barbarism.”

“The people have been traumatized and are very afraid. The Congolese are fed up of crying and dying,” he told ACN.

The vicar general said that men had stormed Fr. Cizimya’s rectory in Kabare and smashed a window to get inside. They moved towards the priest’s room but when he tried to close the door to keep them out they fired two shots at his head, killing him instantly.

“We admire the bravery and compassion of the people of Kabare in support of their departed priest. How they have responded is an example to everyone,” Msgr. Bulambo said.

Fr. Bunyakiri Crispin, the rector of St. Pius X Seminary in Murhesa, filled in ACN on the murder of Sr. Denise at the Trappist monastery.

Sr. Denise, guest mistress at the monastery, was suddenly confronted by three strangers. She tried to escape but was shot dead. Her body was discovered “lying in a pool of blood.”

“A woman who was one of the guests said she heard shouting and then saw an armed man running towards her but she shut herself in her room,” Fr. Crispin said.

Another woman who works at the monastery said attackers demanded money from her. When she refused they fired a gun at her but missed.

The rest of the nuns took shelter in the monastery dormitory and sat on the floor in case shots were fired through the windows.

“The whole time, the Sisters prayed the rosary and sang Psalm 129, the De Profundis, for Sr. Denise and the whole community,” Fr. Crispin reported.

According to ACN, Msgr. Bulambo said police were continuing their inquiries. He hinted at possible collusion between security staff officials and the attackers.

The attack on the Trappist nuns was the fourth since 1996.

The vicar general said the incidents were the latest in a series of attacks on Church communities in the Bukavu area.

Two months ago two priest in Ciherano were “imprisoned like rats” by attackers who set fire to their presbytery. Days later a group of students was robed and burglars struck a hospital in Mukongola.

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Case challenging rights of unborn in Ireland could be ‘Roe v. Wade of Europe’

Strasbourg, France, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - Ireland’s constitutional amendment protecting the unborn could be overturned in a “pivotal” case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Some are calling the case “the Roe v. Wade of Europe.”

Three women who sought abortions in Ireland sued under the European Convention on Human Rights to overturn the country’s legal protections for pre-born children. The three women, who obtained abortions in Britain, are trying to establish a “right” to abortion in Ireland in a case titled A, B, and C v. Ireland.

The women also want to establish a precedent that would define abortion as a right across all of Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The lawsuit will be decided in the Grand Chamber of the EHCR in Strasbourg, France. The American groups Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and the Family Research Council (FRC) filed a joint brief in November 2008 with two other pro-life organizations at the court’s request after it allowed the groups to intervene as defendants in this case.

“No one should be allowed to decide that an innocent life is worthless,” commented Roger Kiska, ADF legal counsel. “Ireland’s constitutional amendment defending innocent life is under attack, and the stakes are high for all of Europe.”

ADF Senior Counsel Glen Lavy said the case is “pivotal” not only to Europe but to America as well, because American courts increasingly consider what other countries are doing when deciding their own cases.

“Because this case could be the Roe v. Wade of Europe, its impact upon the U.S. should not be underestimated,” he added.

The UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and its supporters will hold a vigil outside the ECHR in Strasbourg on Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 12 noon.

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Vatican congregation exonerates Long Island monsignor of sex abuse charges

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - A New York Catholic priest close to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani will return to ministry after being found not guilty of sexual abuse of a minor in a canonical trial before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Msgr. Alan Placa, a Long Island priest accused of molesting a teenager in 1975, was the Diocese of Rockville Center’s leader on sexual abuse issues until June of 2002, when he himself was accused.

The monsignor was stripped of his priestly faculties while church authorities investigated.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre said in a statement that his case has been subjected to “extraordinary scrutiny” in conformity with the requirements of the norms established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in 2002.

It added that the Congregation’s decision confirms the decision first reached by the Tribunal of the Diocese of Albany.

“The Holy See’s definitive decision completes the canonical process for Msgr. Placa,” the diocese said. “This action by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith renders the decision final and definitive. As a result of this decision, Msgr. Placa is no longer on administrative leave and is now permitted to exercise priestly ministry freely in the Roman Catholic Church.”

“In accordance with the provisions of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, we have been instructed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to restore Msgr. Placa to ministry and to do what we can to restore his good name.”

Bishop of Rockville Centre William Murphy thanked the CDF and the Tribunal of the Diocese of Albany for their work. He said the diocese will abide by the Congregation’s decision to return Msgr. Placa to ministry.

“We hope that everyone in the diocese will recognize that Msgr. Placa is a priest in good standing.  It is my hope and prayer that this decision will bring closure and healing,” Bishop Murphy said. “We also ask people of good will to join us in praying for those who were, in fact, victims of sexual abuse. Their suffering must never be forgotten.”

Msgr. Placa was best man at the first wedding of Rudy Giuliani and presided over the politician’s second wedding. He also officiated at the funeral of the ex-mayor’s mother, the New York Daily News says.

Giuliani stood by Msgr. Placa while he was being investigated and put him on the payroll of his law firm. A spokeswoman for the ex-mayor told the New York Daily News he had no comment.

Msgr. Placa’s accuser, Ronald Tollner, said he is “standing by all of my testimony. I’m not retracting anything. He molested kids.”

According to the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Murphy and Msgr. Placa have agreed that he will not be given a diocesan assignment. He will reside at St. Aloysius parish in Great Neck, Long Island with the status of a retired priest in good standing.

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Pope Benedict appoints bishop of Texas diocese

Brownsville, Texas, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Flores of the Archdiocese of Detroit as bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

“We are very sad to lose him,” said Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit in a statement on December 9, “but we understand that his being sent to Brownsville is God's will, for him, for the priests and people there, and for us.”

Bishop Daniel Flores, 48, was born in Palacios, Texas, in 1961. After studying at Holy Trinity Seminary at the University of Dallas and earning both a bachelor's and master's degree, he was ordained for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1988.

Bishop Flores also attended the University of St. Thomas in Rome, where he completed a licentiate and doctoral degree in theology in 2000. After his return to the U.S., the bishop was assigned to serve in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston as part of the formation faculty of St. Mary's Seminary as well as the teaching faculty at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology.

At the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Bishop Flores served on the Task Force for Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice.

“Bishop Flores has a remarkable grace of Christian fraternity, of being a brother,” continued Archbishop Vigneron. “He has shared that gift with me personally, and I thank God and him for this blessing.

“He goes with the love and prayers of all of us, his family in Detroit – where he will always find a ready welcome 'back home.'”

Bishop Flores will be installed as the shepherd of the Diocese of Brownsville on February 2, 2010. He  will lead 995,160 laity, 120 priests, 65 permanent deacons and 178 religious.

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Cardinal encourages prisoners to find strength in the Word of God

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - The Papal Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, encouraged those in prison to the turn to the Word of God for strength in order to “begin their lives once again.”

During his homily at a Mass at the Regina Coeli Prison in Rome, the cardinal said, “We all have a desert inside us: all the loneliness, mistakes, discomforts, feelings of hatred, envy, imprisonment and even death. But in the desert of life it is possible to begin a new journey. I have also gone through difficult times and my strength has always been the Word of God. I hope it is the same for you.

Cardinal Vallini told the prisoners, “You have been given the chance to begin again, to re-think your lives. Do not be discouraged, everyone can re-start their lives.”

The cardinal was joined at the Mass by the chaplain of the Regina Coeli Prison, Father Vittorio Trani, who has been working at the prison for 30 years. “He explained to me the meaning of Regina Coeli’s rotunda, where one finds a world full of anguish, sorrow, frailty, sin, but also a world where re-building occurs,” the cardinal said. “This is a place of prayer: Regina Coeil does not have a chapel and for this reason, on Sunday, the prisoners meet here to celebrate, and I would say, to re-start their lives, in order to have faith in a new beginning.”

Cardinal Vallini also encouraged those on the outside to help prisoners by show solidarity with them and helping them with employment when they are released.

Last week the Holy Father greeted the sister of murder-turned-saint Jacques Fesch after his Wednesday General Audience. Fesch was a young man in Paris who killed a police officer and was condemned to death in 1957. While in prison, his conversion was so dramatic that in 1993, then-Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger opened his cause for beatification.

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Impact of 'climate change' on the poor must not be ignored, says Vatican spokesman

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - The director of the Vatican Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, asked delegates gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, to remember that everyone must assume their responsibility in the area of climate change and focus on its impact on the poor.

Father Lombarid’s editorial this week for Vatican TV’s news program, “'Octava Dies,” is entitled, "Copenhagen and Us."

"For a long time climatic and environmental concerns seemed to many to be a luxury - concerns of the rich."

However, he continued, environmental concerns were also found to have a great impact on the poor.

"When there is drought or when there are environmental disasters, the poor are the first to suffer and die. Those who are in safer places or have more resources to nourish or protect themselves can cope better with the declining environmental conditions," he said.

In this sense, Father Lombardi explained, "We must worry about the health of the planet for everyone's sake, especially for the poor. The planet is like an organism in which imbalances are reflected in each other.”  He continued adding that, “the altered composition of the atmosphere, the rise of sea levels, the reduced clean fresh water supplies, changes in rainfall and hurricanes, soil erosion and desertification, damage to agriculture and human health,” all depend “largely on the behavior and choices of humans."

"The Copenhagen conference on climate will be considered a success or a failure based on the commitments of governments, especially those of larger countries. ‘Magic’ figures on reductions of harmful gas emissions and on fundraising will be announced,” but ultimately, “it all depends on the behavior of us inhabitants of the Earth, who are all too accustomed to passing responsibility on to others,” Father Lombardi said.

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Benedict XVI focuses General Audience on Real presence of Jesus in Eucharist

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI turned once again to the Middle Ages for a model of faith in his address at today's General Audience.  On this occasion he chose to look at the role of Rupert of Deutz in Christian history, particularly as a theologian who “defended the reality of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.”

In the 12th century, great struggles came about between the Roman Empire and the Church.  The Pope lauded Rupert for distinguishing himself with his “honest moral integrity” and his “strong attachment to the Holy See” in that age of great moral and physical battles. 

The Holy Father said that we can learn from his life about how to react to controversies within the Church. When “controversies emerge in the Church, the reference to the Petrine ministry guarantees fidelity to healthy doctrine and gives serenity and interior freedom,” he explained.

Rupert contemplated and wrote on many of the important themes affecting the Church in his time.  Among these theological works, which the Pope deemed “still of great interest today,” is a document called “De divinis officiis” which supports the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

This, said Benedict XVI, is “a point we must also think about in our time; there also exists today the danger of reducing Eucharistic realism, to consider, that is, the Eucharist almost as just a rite of communion, of socialization, forgetting too easily that in the Eucharist is really present the risen Christ – with His risen body – and puts Himself in our hands to incorporate us into His own immortal Body and lead us to a new life.”

“This great mystery that the Lord is present in all of his reality in the Eucharistic species is a mystery to adore and love always and again!” declared the Pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI also noted Rupert’s contribution to theological discussion on the omnipotence of God, man’s mistaken use of freedom as the origin of evil, and the vision of Christ standing at the center of history.

The Holy Father concluded by praising the monk for his ability to “unite the rational study of the mysteries of the faith with prayer and contemplation.” All Catholics, the Pope advised, should do the same by making an effort to make time for the Lord Jesus, who “makes himself present in the Eucharistic Bread and in his Word for our salvation.”

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Spanish bishop questions why government is intent on removing crucifixes

Toledo, Spain, Dec 9, 2009 (CNA/Europa Press) - Bishop Jose Sanchez of Siguenza-Guadalajara in Spain wondered aloud Monday why the Spanish government is so concerned about the removal of crucifixes in the classroom instead of the country's “very high drop-out rate, disagreements among teachers and youth unemployment.”

According to Europa Press, Bishop Sanchez’s latest pastoral letter focuses on a proposal in the Congressional Committee on Education that calls for the Spanish government to implement a ruling from the EU Human Rights Court ordering crucifixes be removed from all schools in Italy.

“I won’t discuss whether or not this is a distraction by the government, which is overwhelmed by the grave economic situation, high unemployment and is on the verge of passing a law expanding abortion.”  The prelate noted that abortion is a much more serious issue than the “crucifixes, because it elevates the elimination of innocent and defenseless human beings to a right, even more than the current law does, which itself is unjust.”

Bishop Sanchez said that with the approval of this proposal on crucifixes, the question is whether the government “has given yet another sign that is part of a more ambitious plan: that of reducing the action of religion, and more concretely that of the Catholic faith.”

“They forget that freedom of expression, of association, of religion, the freedom to meet and to protest, are fundamental human rights that the Church, like any other religion and creed, exercises in the private and the public sphere,” the bishop said.

“Interference by the Church into the public sphere would be if she attempted to legislate, judge or govern in a civil forum—such as Parliament,” he continued.  “The Church does not intend to impose her beliefs, her practices or her symbols. She respects those of others and she has the right to have hers respected. In schools as well.”

“The State is non-sectarian and the government may be lay, secular, non-sectarian, whatever; but citizens, in freedom, are what they are.”  He added that “many are believers, and they have rights which the State must respect, defend and protect, making it possible they be exercised, and never impeding, prohibiting or making it more difficult,” the bishop concluded.

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U.S. Bishops 'deplore' Senate dismissal of abortion amendment

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - A statement issued this morning by the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Francis George, said that the bishops “deplore” yesterday's Senate vote to bypass a pro-life amendment which would have prevented federal funding of abortions.

“The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform,” said Cardinal George.

Moreover, the cardinal underscored that “the Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion.”

On Dec. 7, a letter from the USCCB signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Bishops John Wester and William Murphy urged the Senate to support the pro-life amendment and “keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy” against federally funded abortions.

In response to yesterday's Senate vote, Cardinal DiNardo commented in the same USCCB statement, “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding” and that “the Senate should not approve this bill in its current form.”

Bishop Wester added his voice to his brother bishops', saying, “health care must protect, not threaten, human life and dignity; respect not violate, consciences of providers, taxpayers and others.” 

The USCCB statement also quoted Bishop Murphy who remarked that “Congress needs to retain existing abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all.”

Cardinal George concluded the statement by saying that “while we deplore the Senate's refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation.”

“Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent,” the cardinal insisted.

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Cloture vote now key after failure of abortion funding restrictions in health care bill

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - With the failure of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment restrictions on abortion funding, focus turns to a cloture vote to end debate on the Senate health care bill. While pro-life Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson had previously said he would oppose cloture without the amendment, a spokesman today declined to comment on the senator’s plans.

Opposition to cloture would stop the bill from advancing.

Last week CNA spoke with Sen. Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson about the senator’s amendment to the health care bill. Thompson said that Sen. Nelson would not vote for the health care bill or for cloture on the debate unless it had his amendment.

“There has to be Stupak-like language,” Thompson explained, referring to the U.S. House’s version of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment.

However, Sen. Nelson’s amendment was defeated by a 54-45 vote on Tuesday.

In a Tuesday statement, Sen. Nelson expressed disappointment at the defeat of his amendment.

“Our proposal to ensure that the Senate health care bill doesn’t open the door to public funding of abortion was reasonable. It was rational because it followed established federal policy. And it was right because taxpayers shouldn’t be required to pay for abortions,” he said.

According to Talking Points Memo, Sen. Nelson told reporters the failure of his abortion funding amendment "makes it harder to be supportive” of the Senate health care bill. He did not reiterate his pledge to filibuster the bill.

“We'll just have to see what develops,” he said. “I have no Plan B.”

Seeking information about the senator’s current plans, CNA contacted Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson again on Wednesday. Thompson said he had no comment.

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., a Pennsylvania Democrat, was a co-sponsor of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment. Before the vote on the amendment, asked the senator if he would still vote for the health care bill if the amendment were defeated.

The senator said he would not “draw a line in the sand” and added that the discussion would continue.

“This vote will give people a chance to vote on the issue, this amendment will not be determinative of where the legislation will go,” Sen. Casey remarked.

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First U.S.-Vatican ambassador a ‘pivotal figure,’ head Knight of Columbus says

Washington D.C., Dec 9, 2009 (CNA) - William A. Wilson, the first ambassador of the United States to the Holy See, was a “pivotal figure” in American-Vatican relations, Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson said following Wilson’s passing.

Ambassador Wilson, a convert to Catholicism, died in California on Saturday at the age of 95.

President Ronald Reagan named Wilson his personal envoy to the Vatican in 1981, a Knights of Columbus press release said. In 1983, when Congress repealed an 1867 law banning the use of federal funds for a Vatican mission, Reagan established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See and named Wilson as the first U.S. Ambassador there.

“The establishment of diplomatic relations following repeal of a blatantly anti-Catholic law enacted shortly after the Civil War was a measure of how much had changed for Catholics in America during the intervening 115 years,” Anderson commented.

Anderson himself served in the White house Office of Public Liaison at the time and participated in events leading to the establishment of full diplomatic relations.

“Bill Wilson was the perfect choice to become America’s first ambassador to the Holy See,” Anderson continued. “He was a close friend of President Reagan, and thus had his complete confidence as he set about the task of getting our first-ever diplomatic relations off on the right foot. 

“And he was both a faithful Catholic and a patriotic American who took great care to ensure that those two loyalties were carefully balanced throughout his years as America’s ambassador at the Vatican.”

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