Vatican City, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - In the wake of the drive-by shooting and killing of several Coptic Christians and a police officer, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is offering his prayers for the slain.
The Italian SIR news agency reported that the president of the Papal Council for the Unity of Christians, Cardinal Walter Kasper, expressed his sympathy to the community in a letter addressed to Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark.
The cardinal wrote that it was "with sadness" that he "learned of the terrible news of the death and wounding of many Coptic Christians after Midnight Mass at Christmas... ."
In the Coptic tradition, Christmas is celebrated on January 7.
Kasper communicated solidarity and assured the Coptic leader of his prayers for him and his Coptic Christian flock.
"Every time our Christians suffer unfairly, it is a wound in Christ’s Body, in which all believers live. Together we share this sadness and together we pray for recovery, peace and justice.
"All Christians must keep together before oppression and look together for the peace that only Christ can give. I pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of the dead and for the recovery of the wounded, as well as for the comfort of the victims’ relatives."
The Holy See's apostolic nuncio to Egypt, Msgr. Michael Fitzgerald, was also cited by SIR as attributing the incident to current "tensions," pointing out that similar stories are not uncommon.
"These acts of violence happen quite frequently and this means the situation is not as rosy as the authorities would like to make it look," said the diplomat, who is also the Vatican's representative to the Organization of the League of Arab States.
Fitzgerald added that the reason for the attack remains unknown. Some news reports linked the shooting to the alleged rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man.
According to the nuncio, at this point in time a resolution to the recent escalation in violence should be focused on efforts to build mutual trust between the religious groups. He added, "It is a work that paves the way to dialogue.”
Sydney, Australia, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Anthony C. Fisher was appointed on Friday by Pope Benedict XVI as bishop of Parramatta, Australia. Bishop Fisher, 49, who currently serves as auxiliary bishop of Sydney, was Coordinator of the 2008 World Youth Day and is credited for his extensive work in helping organize it.
“It is a very great privilege to be entrusted with this role of leadership and service in the vibrant young diocese of Parramatta,” Bishop Fisher said on Friday. “Western Sydney is one the Australia's fasting growing areas, with a median age of only 32, many young families and numerous ethnic communities. Parramatta may be one of our youngest dioceses but it is already the fifth most populous in Australia and has many exciting possibilities.”
Speaking about the impact that the 2008 World Youth Day had on him personally, Bishop Fisher said that “World Youth Day brought home to me the importance of youth ministry and the major contribution young people can make to our Church today. I will be bringing that experience and energy to my new role.”
Born in South-West Sydney and educated in local schools, Bishop Fisher eventually studied History and Law at the University of Sydney. Following his studies there, he practiced in a law firm in the city and began his involvement in the pro-life movement.
In 1985 he entered the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) and began his theology studies in Melbourne. He was ordained a priest in 1991 and finished his doctorate in bioethics at the University of Oxford in 1995. In addition to lecturing in numerous countries and being widely published, Bishop Fisher served as foundation Director for the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne where he is still a professor.
“I have a passion for preaching, teaching and formation, and so I will be very interested in the disctinctive contribution the Catholic Church makes in this regard in the Diocese of Parramatta,” said the Bishop.
The installation Mass for Bishop Fisher will take place at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Parramatta on March 4, 2010.
Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - In anticipation of the beatification of Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman, a major conference will be held at the Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island to discuss the nineteenth-century convert and theologian.
The conference theme is “Newman and the Intellectual life.” It will take place from June 10-13, 2010.
Lecturers include Deacon Jack Sullivan, a Boston-area man whose spine miraculously healed after he sought Cardinal Newman’s intercession; Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society; and Fr. Paul Chavasse, the English Oratory priest who oversaw Newman’s cause for beatification.
Dr. Peter Kreeft of Boston College, Fr. George Rutler of New York, Newman biographer Fr. Ian Ker and Newman scholars Edward Short and Dr. Paul Griffiths will also attend, a Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) press release reports.
Reilly, who will speak to the conference about Newman and the renewal of Catholic identity in higher education, said that American Catholics have “great love” for Cardinal Newman and have “much excitement” about his likely beatification in September.
“The collaboration of The Cardinal Newman Society, Portsmouth Abbey and Newman’s Oratory in Birmingham, England, will foster even greater appreciation for Cardinal Newman’s contributions to Catholic intellectual and spiritual life,” he commented.
Cardinal Newman founded the Oratory in Birmingham, which is the site of his archives.
Fr. Chavasse, former provost of the oratory, will deliver a dinner banquet address at the conference on June 11. He will discuss Cardinal Newman’s cause for canonization and how to preserve his legacy.
Unofficial reports indicate that Cardinal Newman may be beatified in September.
Details on the conference are posted at http://www.PortsmouthInstitute.org.
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - More than 30,000 pro-life activists are expected for the Sixth Annual Walk for Life West Coast on Jan. 23 in San Francisco. Undercover student investigator Lila Rose, former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, and 40 Days for Life director David Bereit will be among its speakers.
The Walk for Life begins with a rally at 11 a.m. at Justin Herman Plaza. The Walk begins at noon and proceeds along San Francisco’s waterfront.
Eva Muntean, co-chair of the Walk for Life West Coast, explained the motivation for the event.
"Abortion is wicked and hurts children, women and men -- our speakers this year directly address the huge financial and political clout of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider and recipient of $350 million in tax dollars annually,” she said in a Jan. 6 press release.
Muntean explained that Johnson had walked away from her position at a Bryan/College Station, Texas Planned Parenthood abortion clinic because an abortion doctor asked her to hold the ultrasound probe and she witnessed a baby die in an abortion.
Rally speaker Lila Rose, a UCLA student, has made undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staffers apparently colluding in covering up statutory rape by not complying with mandatory reporting laws.
David Bereit’s 40 Days for Life campaign of national prayer, fasting and advocacy outside abortion clinics has witnessed the closing of five targeted abortion facilities. At least 26 clinic workers reportedly walked away from their jobs following local campaigns.
40 Days for Life claimed 200,000 participants in 50 U.S. states and three countries.
Bereit will receive the Walk’s Gianna Molla Award, named for a canonized Italian Catholic pediatrician who refused to abort her unborn baby when doctors said it was necessary to save her life. Molla died soon after giving birth to her daughter.
Rev. Clenard Childress, director of the group LEARN and BlackGenocide.org, a regular speaker at the Walk since its inauguration in 2005, will also speak at the rally.
Other speakers include Georgette Froney of Silent No More and San Diego-based evangelical pastor Jim Garlow.
The Walk for Life West Coast website is at http://walkforlifewc.com
Luxor, Egypt, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - The killing of seven in a drive-by shooting that targeted Egyptian Coptic Christians leaving a Christmas Eve midnight Mass has triggered clashes with police during a funeral procession for the victims.
The shooting took place in the town of Nag Hamadi, 40 miles from the large southern Egyptian city of Luxor, on Jan. 5, which is Christmas Eve in the Coptic calendar. Three men sprayed automatic gunfire into a church crowd.
Bishop Kiroloss told the Associated Press he decided to end the service at St. John’s Church an hour early because of threats. His parishioners had been abused in the street and he had received a threatening text message which said “It is your turn.”
"For days, I had expected something to happen on Christmas Eve," he said.
The bishop left the church minutes before the attack, but a car swerved near him so he took the back door.
“By the time I shook hands with someone at the gate, I heard the mayhem, lots of machine gun shots.”
Six Christians and a security guard were killed, the Telegraph reports. Egypt’s interior ministry said the attack was thought to be retaliation for the rape of a 12-year-old Muslim girl by a Christian man in Nag Hamadi in November.
Police have identified the lead attacker, a known criminal. Security has been strengthened in the town and checkpoints are in place on roads to ease fears of more attacks.
About 5,000 people attended the funeral.
Coptic Christian protesters clashed with police, threw stones at cars and set fire to ambulances.
The shootings added to Copts’ grievances, which the Telegraph says include charges of increasing harassment, prejudice in acquiring government jobs, and police failure to investigate attacks on Christian property.
At the beginning of the swine flu H1N1 pandemic last year, the Egyptian government ordered the slaughter of thousands of pigs farmed by Copts in Cairo. Farmers saw the culling as an attack on their freedoms, as most Egyptians are Muslims who view pork as unclean.
In November, massive mobs of Muslims attacked Coptic Christians and their businesses in the Egyptian town of Farshoot 300 miles south of Cairo. The mobs’ looting, vandalism and arson caused at least $1 million in damage and forced Copts to hide indoors for fear of their lives.
The attacks were sparked by a claim that a 20-year-old Christian man, taken into police custody, had a relationship with a 12-year-old Muslim girl.
The Copts are descended from Egyptian converts to Christianity in the first century A.D.
Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - Proposed health care reform could require some married couples to pay $2,000 or more compared to unmarried couples living together, prompting some leaders to criticize the “marriage penalty.” They voiced concerns the provision would discourage marriage.
The penalty arises because the planned subsidies for purchasing health insurance are tied to federal poverty guidelines. According to the Wall Street Journal, this would limit subsidies for married couples with a combined income compared to subsidies for unmarried couples.
The rules would not affect those who receive health insurance from an employer. They would only affect those who buy subsidized insurance through the new insurance exchanges set up by the legislation.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 17 million people would receive such subsidies in 2016 under the House health care bill.
Under the legislation, health insurance premiums are capped for those who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The annual cost is capped at 1.5 percent of income for the poorest but increases to 11 percent of income for those closest to the cutoff.
The Wall Street Journal says that under the House bill an unmarried couple with an income of $25,000 each would have a premium cap of $3,076, but if they marry their $50,000 combined income would make their annual premium cap jump to $5,160.
In a Thursday statement House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said the penalty could cost couples that marry “thousands of dollars” in higher insurance costs.
Republicans said that the effect on married couples ineligible for subsidies is even greater, possibly more than $5,000. However, other analysts point out that the figure is difficult to measure because of assumptions about the price of insurance policies.
Democratic staff who helped author the bill said the penalty exists, but they hold that it cannot be altered without creating other problems.
They said that making the subsidies neutral towards marriage would lead to a married couple with only one breadwinner receiving a larger subsidy than a single parent at the same income level.
Stacy Dickert-Conlin, an economics professor at Michigan State University, said there is a tradeoff between the progressive, equitable and marriage-neutral aspects of the bill and legislators “can’t accomplish all three.”
Jenny Tyree, an analyst at the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, told the Wall Street Journal that the legislation would penalize the poor, who she said have the most to gain from marriage.
Some conservative groups have claimed the legislation will dissuade people from marrying, but Dickert-Conlin said most research indicates people do not make decisions about marrying based on government benefits.
Washington D.C., Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - Former President George W. Bush will be presented with an award by the lay group Legatus, for his work in advancing the pro-life cause. The ceremony will be held at the annual Legatus Summit Feb. 5-6 in Dana Point, Calif., where Bush will address the business group for the first time since leaving office a year ago.
The prestigious Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award is being given in response to the former president's eight years of pro-life legislation. Legatus cites his administration's opposition to embryonic stem cell research, an executive order barring federal funds from being used for abortion related projects abroad, the appointment of two pro-life Supreme Court Justices and a rule protecting federally funded health employees from taking part in abortion or practices that conflict with their faith as policies that Bush helped enact during his presidency.
The group of Catholic business professionals also noted that one of the former president's last efforts while in office included a declaration of Jan. 18, 2009 as “National Sanctity of Human Life Day,” along with a statement that “the most basic duty of government is to protect the life of the innocent.”
The former president will be a accompanied by a host of other speakers at the event, including Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, actress Patricia Heaton, entrepreneur Frank J. Hanna III, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Newt and Callista Gingrich, and Thomas Donahue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve been speaking to a number of Legatus chapters about the Summit, and people are really excited,” said Kathleen Eaton, the event chairperson, on Thursday. “It’s been a rough year on a number of fronts, and they really need this shot in the arm. They want to come together to pray and learn more about what the Church is saying on different issues.”
Previous recipients of the Cardinal John J. O'Connor Pro-Life Award have included Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International, Judie Brown of the American Life League, Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Rep. Henry Hyde.
Vatican City, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) -
In his second audience with security staff in recent days, Pope Benedict XVI met with members of the Vatican Inspectorate of Public Security on Friday morning in the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace. The purpose of the traditional annual encounter was to exchange New Year's wishes and relate the Holy See's gratitude for their service.
Administrators and agents from various units that operate within the Vatican City's borders were present to exchange greetings for a blessed and prosperous New Year. Among the representatives in attendance was Chief of Police, Antonio Manganelli, Prefect Salvatore Festa and the Director of the Inspectorate of Public Security in the Vatican, Dr. Giulio Callini.
The Holy Father expressed words of praise and thanks to security staff for the "precious service (they) render to the Pope and the Church" by making it possible for Vatican visitors to have "authentic religious experiences" in the "center of Christianity."
Despite the great commitment and responsibility required of security personnel, Pope Benedict noted that "in the eyes of the faith this constitutes a particular way to serve the Lord and almost 'prepare the way'" for every pilgrim and visitor to have a life-changing experience.
According to a 2008 report from Vatican Radio, the Inspectorate was established in 1929 in a mutual pact by the Italian and Vatican City-State governments. In addition to providing protection for civilians around the Holy See, it also oversees coordination of security details for the Pope, Vatican officials and foreign heads of state as move between the two countries.
Agents of the Inspectorate are very visible within Vatican City can often be seen patrolling in St. Peter's Square.
Vatican City, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - Security official Salvatore Festa, who coordinates activity between the Italian police who serve at the Vatican and Holy See officials, guaranteed Pope Benedict's security, as new measures have been taken following the Christmas Eve incident in which the Pope was pulled to the ground by a disturbed woman.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, Festa recalled that during the Christmas Eve Mass, measures were immediately taken to protect the Pontiff when the young Swiss woman, Susana Maiolo lunged at the Holy Father.
Festa noted that Vatican official Domenico Giani reacted immediately to the situation.
Speaking later about the special training provided to those who protect the Holy Father, Festa explained that the first thing the security guards are taught “has to do with guaranteeing the Pope's security without keeping him from fulfilling his mission to the people.”
“You cannot keep the Pope from approaching the railings to greet or bless those who seek or call out to him. For this reason, his closest agents receive a specific kind of training.”
These members of the security team periodically receive updated training sessions to learn new safety techniques, Festa explained, thus ensuring that the Pope is provided the best protection possible.
In response to a question about persons who wish to harm Pope Benedict XVI, Festa explained that a second tier of undercover security agents are specially trained to spot dangerous people...in order to intervene rapidly under any circumstances.”
Festa also noted that security agents who control the entrances into St. Peter’s Square and operate the metal detectors “receive special instruction on how to identify every object that is scanned, even if the most sophisticated techniques are used to camouflage it.” He added that so far, no weapons have been found among those in attendance.
Madrid, Spain, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - The vice president of the European Network of the Institute for Family Policy, Mariano Martinez-Aedo, denounced the Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero this week for working “to radicalize Europe,” by imposing fast-track divorce and gender ideology.
Zapatero is also currently president of the European Union, a rotating six-month position among EU countries.
Martinez-Aedo lamented that while the demographic winter and the number of broken marriages is on the rise in Europe, Socialist leaders are not addressing these problems but are instead making them worse.
Citing report which highlights the goals of the EU leadership over the next 18 months, Martinez-Aedo pointed out that the document does not include any proposal in support of families or the continent's decreasing birth rate.
“When the document addresses the issue of broken marriages, it speaks of harmonizing laws on divorce and conflict, but in the sense of simplifying and facilitating the procedures, which would unify divorce in all of Europe,” Martinez-Aedo said.
Likewise, “it seeks to advance the imposition of gender ideology. Thus the document proposes that Europe and the different States mandate gender ideology,” on all their policies.
Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - In defense of true marriage and the family, the Mexican bishops' conference has called for more debate on the controversial Mexico City law making homosexual unions equal to marriage.
According to the news agency of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, the bishops’ Secretary General, Bishop Victor Rene Rodriguez, said the prelates have also voiced their support for “every initiative that the Archdiocese of Mexico City is carrying out in relation to this issue, which is the source of much controversy in society and in families.”
“The family institution is responsible for procreation and for ensuring children have the guidance of a father and a mother for their education and development as persons,” he explained.
Solidarity with the Cardinal
Various Mexican bishops also expressed their solidarity with Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera for his defense of family values and the rights of children.
The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, lamented the approval of the law and the possibility of homosexual couples adopting children. “This is simply absurd. It profoundly harms possible adoptees because it totally distorts their capacity to develop their identity,” he warned.
He stressed that the Church respects all persons and their right to live as they choose, but that it is incorrect for laws to invade the confines of a divine institution such as marriage. “There are many ways to form associations, but don’t call it marriage because that invades an area that does not belong to the state,” the cardinal said.
For his part, Archbishop Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon said the position of state representatives in Mexico City “is not worthy of support” because they attacked the “healthy anthropology” of Mexican society. Archbishop Alberto Suarez of Morelia added that lawmakers failed to respect proper human anthropology.
Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Hanoi has condemned a recent police attack on Catholic parishioners and the destruction of a cemetery crucifix by the city police as a “sacrilege.”
“Blowing up the crucifix in the cemetery of Dong Chiem Parish with explosives is the most severe form of sacrilege. It's insults the Catholic faith,” said Fr. John Le Trong Cung, Vice Chancellor of the Hanoi Archbishopric in a statement on Friday.
An estimated 600 to 1000 heavily armed police officers and a large number of trained dogs were deployed to the area to protect the army engineering unit assigned to destroy the stone crucifix. The troops and police reportedly claimed they were acting on a policy that requires all religious symbols to be inside a religious premise, J.B. An Dang told CNA.
“Facing such an extreme act of sacrilege, parishioners of Dong Chiem begged the police to stop destroying their crucifix. But in response they were shot at close range with tear gas canisters. Around a dozen brutally beaten, two of them were seriously injured and hospitalized,” claimed Fr. John Le.
According to J.B. An Dang, the two seriously injured victims were transported by police after the attack to a clinic where they received no medical attention. It was only until later in the day when the priests and parishioners found them and brought them to another hospital that they received proper care.
“We are now coping with severe grief and shock, for what happened to the crucifix was an act of sacrilege to the Christ, our Lord,” lamented Fr. John Le. “To desecrate the crucifix is to desecrate the most sacred symbol of the Christian faith and of the Church. To brutally assault the unarmed, innocent civilians is a savage and inhumane act as human dignity is severely hurt.”
“This gross conduct should be condemned!” he insisted.
Following the attack, priests and leaders of deaneries in the archdiocese swarmed to the area to offer support and sympathy. “They consoled the victims and concelebrated Mass, praying for the injured and for Dong Chiem parish as a whole,” said Fr. John Le.
Though the attack took place on the parish cemetery mount, the Vietnamese government has denied the Church's ownership of it, citing the Communist land policy which claims that all land belongs to the people and to the state, as acting manager for the people.
Fr. John Le refuted this, saying “the mount has always been in the ownership of the parish since its establishment more than a hundred years ago.”
Concluding his statement with a plea, Fr. John Le asked for “fervent prayers from all priests, religious, seminarians, and all faithful, for Dong Chiem parish to be steadfast in bearing our Christ's cross. Let us pray for our country to become just, democratic, and civilized, where sacred values are respected and human rights protected.”
Gallup, N.M., Jan 8, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop emeritus of Gallup, New Mexico Donald E. Pelotte died on Thursday morning at a Florida hospital after a period of illness. He was 64.
Born in Waterville, Maine in 1945, Bishop Pelotte professed religious vows in the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in August 1967, the Diocese of Gallup reports. He was ordained a priest in September, 1972 and received a doctorate in theology from Fordham University in 1975.
He became the provincial of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament at the age of 33. At the time he was the youngest major superior of a men’s religious community in the United States.
Then, in 1986, he was appointed third bishop of Gallup by Pope John Paul II.
He was the first Native American bishop in the United States. According to the Miami Herald, his father was a member of the Abenaki tribe. Bishop Pelotte had been a national board member of the Tekakwitha Conference, an organization for Native American Catholics, since 1981.
He also was a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Catholic Historical Society.
Bishop Pelotte ordained his twin brother, Fr. Dana Pelotte, SSS, on Sept. 4, 1999 at their hometown parish in Waterville, Maine. The Diocese of Gallup said this was the first time in known Catholic history a bishop ordained his twin brother.
During his 22 years in the Diocese of Gallup he developed training programs for Native American deacons and lay ministers. He also fought to keep open Casa San Martin, which served Gallup’s homeless population.
In 2007 Bishop Pelotte suffered severe injuries in what he said was a fall down a staircase during an illness. However, a deacon who found him locked in his bedroom room suspected he had been assaulted.
That December, Bishop Pelotte began a medical leave of absence and Bishop Thomas Olmstead of the Diocese of Phoenix was appointed to oversee the diocese.
In a Thursday statement, Bishop Olmstead said he was “saddened” to learn of Bishop Pelotte’s death.
“I join with Bishop James Wall, who now heads the Gallup Diocese, and the priests, religious and faithful in mourning the death of the first Native American bishop in the United States.”
“Because the Diocese of Gallup encompasses part of Northeastern Arizona, it was my good fortune to come to know Bishop Pelotte over the years,” he continued, assuring the Catholics of Gallup that he was united with them in prayer.
He also enjoined the people of Phoenix to pray for the deceased prelate and his family.
Bishop Wall also expressed sadness at the death of his predecessor, saying he “so faithfully served the Church throughout his life.”
“During this difficult time, we look to our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life—and we pray for the repose of the soul of our brother, Donald, and for the comfort and consolation of his family members,” Bishop Wall said in a Thursday statement.
Bishop Pelotte’s funeral Mass will be held on Jan. 14 in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Gallup. In accordance with his wishes, he will be buried in the crypt of the cathedral at the end of the liturgy.