Washington D.C., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The National Right to Life Committee has sent letters to numerous members of the U.S. House, urging them to oppose any final health care bill that fails to correct six “major” abortion-related problems in the Senate version of the health care bill.
In the view of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the Senate bill will result in “substantial expansion abortion” through federal administrative decisions and federal subsidies.
The House bill, according to the NRLC, will preserve “long-standing federal policies on abortion” and “fully address” the organization’s concerns.
The Jan. 9 NRLC letter says that the Senate bill would create a new program under which the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would administer two or more multi-state insurance plans. The bill says that “at least one” of the plans would be subject to limitations on abortion coverage.
In the NRLC’s view, this implies that other federally administered plans could cover elective abortions or be required to do so by the federal administrator. The Right to Life committee argued that any OPM-run plans should be barred from covering elective abortions.
Under the Senate bill, every enrollee in federally-subsidized private plans that cover elective abortion would have to make a separate monthly payment into a fund exclusively for such abortions, which the NRLC characterized as an “abortion surcharge.” The Stupak-Pitts Amendment barred such subsidies from the House version of the bill.
The NRLC also urged that the final legislation contain bill-wide and permanent restrictions on abortion funding. It claims that the present Senate restrictions are deficient, “narrow” and temporary.
Additionally, the NRLC advocated, the bill needs strong pro-life conscience protections and “airtight” language barring any abortion “mandates” by means of administrative mandates that require health plans to cover abortions.
Chennai, India, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) -
A chapel to St. Anthony in India which was severely damaged in several 2008 attacks by religious extremists is now under reconstruction with the assistance of an international charity.
The chapel, on the island of Rameswaram in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was attacked several times between June and August 2008. The attacks took place at about the same time as anti-Christian violence in Orissa state left more than 80 dead and drove 30,000 from their homes.
The charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has promised about $29,000 towards the cost of a new shrine.
Parish priest Fr. Michael Raj told ACN that the chapel was “heavily damaged twice” by “unidentified anti-social and religious elements” and “fanatic religious groups.”
“This is repeatedly happening here and there are intruders who break the holy cross… They plan to remove the Christian symbols from this site,” he added.
The new chapel will have a protective wall around the compound. The local church also intends to erect a house for visiting pilgrims and to extend the hall at the shrine.
Despite the attacks, Fr. Raj said, “our faith is stronger and we are sure that the God in whom we believe, amidst all these struggles, will save our faith and our place of worship – which is the shrine of St. Anthony.”
The number of pilgrims to the church is “constantly increasing,” he reported.
Though religious groups are suspected in the attacks, the priest said that most members of other faiths on the island support the campaign to save the chapel.
A “reasonable number” of Hindus and Muslims come to the site as pilgrims and visitors, he told ACN.
A shrine to St. Anthony has been on the island of Rameswaram since missionaries first arrived in the 19th century. The original chapel was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964 and a replacement was severely damaged by 2004’s tsunami.
St. Anthony is patron of mariners and fishermen, and so the shrine attracts many visitors on an island where families depend on the sea for their livelihood.
The costs of the shrine project total over $61,000. Local people have already raised more than $16,000 towards the total, despite being from the poorer social classes.
“Though our people are at the bottom of the society in all the spheres they are known for Faith and Commitment towards, and for, the Holy Mother Church,” Fr. Raj told ACN. “I thank God for all that he is doing for me in serving him and practising our faith in this land where we are having a time of persecution and a test in saving our faith and places of worship.”
Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Using the example of St. Thomas More, Archbishop Raymond Burke exhorted legal professionals present at Tuesday's Red Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral to keep God before their eyes as they strive to administer justice amidst a “society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations.”
Archbishop Burke flew in from the Vatican to celebrate the Mass at the invitation of his long-time friend, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. The Red Mass is the only event on the archbishop's short itinerary.
“As a Catholic lawyer, it is an incredible honor to be graced with the presence of Archbishop Burke at the Red Mass,” John Kelly, general counsel for the Diocese of Phoenix, told The Catholic Sun. “This is also a man who has publicly and unabashedly defended the teachings of the Church on the sanctity of life. An opportunity to celebrate Mass with someone like this does not come along very often.”
The archbishop began his homily by explaining the origins of the Red Mass, a tradition dating to the Middle Ages. Noting that there was a stronger understanding of the “essential unity” of faith and reason in that time period, he said that celebrating Mass “at the beginning of the new judicial year pointed to the irreplaceable foundation of the service of pronouncing the just and the right on behalf of one’s brothers and sisters.”
He also explained that red vestments are worn during the Mass for two reasons: judges in the Middle Ages wore red robes and because they remind “us of the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ” in obeying the call of the Holy Spirit to lay down our own lives.
Archbishop Burke then presented the story of St. Thomas More, a lawyer who was martyred for choosing to serve God instead of the king. The patron saint of lawyers, the archbishop reminded, is known for exclaiming, “I die the king’s good servant, and God’s first.” “Saint Thomas More understood that there could be no contradiction between his service of his nation and his service of God, and that, in fact, he could only serve his nation truly and faithfully by his true and faithful service of God,” Archbishop Burke declared.
As he reflected on the calling of those in the legal profession, the archbishop called to mind the traditional formulation of a definitive sentence, “the judge, in giving the final disposition of the sentence, always first declared: 'Having God only before my eyes.'”
“The minister of justice bears a most heavy burden, the burden of emptying himself of himself, in order to have God alone before His eyes, in declaring what is just and right on behalf of his fellow citizens,” noted the archbishop. “At the same time, he enjoys the grace of the Holy Spirit for the carrying out of his service.”
This is no easy task, the Vatican-based archbishop noted as he assessed the current state of the American society.
In our culture, “the law more and more dares to force those with the sacred trust of caring for the health of their brothers and sisters to violate the most sacred tenets of their consciences, and to force individuals and institutions to cooperate in egregious violations of the natural moral law,” he said. “In such a society, the administration of justice is no longer a participation in the justice of God, an obedient response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, but a façade cloaking our own selfishness and refusal to give our lives for the sake of the good of all our brothers and sisters.”
“It is a society which is abandoning its Judeo-Christian foundations, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the common good, and is embracing a totalitarianism which masks itself as the 'hope,' the 'future,' of our nation. Reason and faith teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death and in the end destroy itself,” Archbishop Burke warned.
Addressing the lawyers and politicians present, he stated, “All of us depend upon you to speak what is just and right on our behalf and on behalf of all our brothers and sisters, especially those whose lives are in any way threatened.”
Acknowledging the difficulty of this task, he prayed that all ministers of justice would always enjoy the comfort, strength, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Archbishop Burke concluded his homily by praying, “Let us lift up to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus those charged with the administration of justice on our behalf, imploring for them the gift of the Holy Spirit to inspire and strengthen them in declaring what is just and right on behalf of all our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in most need."
New York City, N.Y., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - In the wake of the Christmas Eve shootings of Egyptian Coptic Christians by a group of Muslims, Coptic attorney Caroline Doss has planned a rally at the United Nations in protest, telling CNA that religious freedom “does not exist” in Egypt.
“Technically speaking, the Constitution does allow freedom of religion but practically speaking it does not exist,” she said Tuesday. “There is a huge difference between the way the laws are applied to Christians and Muslims in Egypt.”
Doss is organizing a rally in New York City on Jan. 19 to send a “clear message” to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak “that failing to prosecute crimes against Coptic Christians is inexcusable” and to “send a message to President Obama here that there is persecution in Mubarak's land.”
An anticipated 2,000 – 4,000 people are expected to participate in the upcoming rally.
Doss continued to explain to CNA the hurdles that exist for Christians in Egypt, particularly the difficulty of being able to build churches there, as well as the documented punishment of those who convert from Islam to Christianity.
“To get permission to build a new church you need a presidential decree,” stated Doss, who also lamented that “if you wanted to convert, for example, from Islam to Christianity you could not legally do so.” In fact, Doss claimed, “there are clear reports of converts to Christianity who have been taken into detention by state security officials” and have been “tortured and raped.”
“If you look at the last (U.S.) State Department report, which was issued October 26, 2009, it cites several examples of Christians who were detained, tortured, beaten, questioned, at the very least, jailed, for converting from Islam to Christianity,” Doss asserted.
“So, is there practically religious freedom? No. Absolutely not.”
However, converting from Christianity to Islam, says Doss, poses no issue. According to her, the Egyptian government has “no problem switching your name over, switching your identity documents over to reflect your new religion,” should one choose to convert to Islam.
Doss also spoke to CNA on the motivations behind the recent Muslim drive-by shooting, clarifying the multiple explanations that have circulated in the media on why the shootings occurred.
According to Doss, in November of 2009 an allegation that Coptic man raped a 12 year-old Muslim girl surfaced. In response to this, a group of Muslims “looted, burned and destroyed” several Christian homes and businesses. The government then scheduled a reconciliation meeting between the Muslims and Christians, which would have addressed the issue of the damaged property. However, according to Doss, Coptic Bishop Kiroloss—the intended target of the most recent shooting—would not participate.
“The bishop refused to sit down in the reconciliation meeting and refused to reconcile differences with the Muslims because this is a repeat offense,” said Doss, who claimed that there are “many examples of mob attacks by Muslims against Christians.”
Doss asserted that so called reconciliation meetings “are basically a way to divert Christians from the judicial system” as a way to prevent them from obtaining justice.
In essence, “it was actually one allegation, that led to riots and the victimization of Copts, and then our refusal to reconcile after that, led to this attack,” explained Doss.
When asked about the 1,000 Coptic Christians who rioted and clashed with police in Egypt last Thursday, Doss said, “I'm not surprised.”
Allegedly, the altercation came about when police delayed in releasing the shooting victims' bodies to the community. “The police at first did not want to release the bodies of the victims to the families so that they could bury them,” said Doss, “and in response to that, the families in anger, did demand that they release the corpses.”
“It doesn't sound like something unreasonable when you have a massacre like that and the police on top of it all tend to detain the deceased so that the victims families can't put them to rest,” she continued. “It's not unusual that they would be angered that they be detaining these bodies.”
The rally that Doss is organizing will take place at the United Nations on Jan. 19 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and then move to the Egyptian Mission from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Sydney, Australia, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - A 66-year-old grandmother whose inexplicable recovery from advanced cancer became the second miracle attributed to Bl. Mary MacKillop has broken her silence to tell her story. The miracle paved the way for Mary MacKillop to become Australia’s first canonized saint.
Kathleen Evans, a mother of five and grandmother of 20, is from Windale near Lake Macquarie in the southeast Australian state of New South Wales.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1995, at the age of 49.
“My youngest was only 13,” Evans said, according to the Archdiocese of Sydney.
At first her surgeon thought he could add five or six years to her life by removing her right lung. This would be enough to see her son through high school.
However, Evans’ cancer was particularly virulent and spread fast into her glandular system and the base of her brain.
This barred any possibility of surgery and chemotherapy was ruled out because the cancer was too advanced. Evans was told radiation would only treat the side effects of the aggressive disease and would add only a few weeks to her life, the Archdiocese of Sydney reported.
"Radiation meant I'd have to go to hospital for 10 consecutive days. But I was too sick for that. Besides the odds weren't worth it," she said. "So I said, thanks but no thanks and went back to my doctor and asked him to see me through until the end."
By this time she could not dress or bathe herself, suffered from night sweats, had difficulty breathing and could not use the toilet on her own.
She then turned to prayer.
"My husband Barry and I were devout churchgoers but I wouldn't say I spent my life on my knees," Evans explained.
A friend gave her a picture of Bl. Mary MacKillop and attached to the back was a relic, a small piece of Mary’s clothing, the Archdiocese of Sydney says.
"I wore this relic on my nightie and later on my clothing. It never left me," Evans reported.
She also distributed to her friends and family prayer cards from the Sisters of St. Joseph in North Sydney.
"We asked them to pray the same prayer, asking Mary to pray with us to God for nine days on my behalf," she said.
Evans suddenly and unexpectedly began to improve. Instead of becoming weaker and frailer, her color began to return and she began to feel better.
"Every day I thought I was going to lose her, and when she started getting better, well it just blew me apart!" said Barry, her husband.
Ten months after her initial diagnosis, a series of X-rays and scans showed scar tissue on her lungs and brain where the cancer had been, but there was no sign of the disease.
"They asked to do a second series of tests. They couldn't believe there could be nothing there," she explained.
There was no scientific explanation for the disappearance of the cancer. Almost 15 years after its disappearance, Evans is fit and healthy and has not suffered any recurrence, the Archdiocese of Sydney reports.
"I don't believe I will ever get cancer again," she said, joking: "I'll probably die of a heart attack first."
Asked why she thought she had been chosen to be healed by God through Mary MacKillop’s intercession, she remarked, "When I get upstairs that will be the first question I ask."
Evans continues to pray to Bl. Mary MacKillop and feels her presence and believes she is constantly with her.
She said she hopes to be a good ambassador for the future canonized saint and would love to be in Rome for MacKillop’s canonization, which is likely to take place sometime later this year.
"If someone doesn't believe in miracles that is for them and that's fine," she said. "But it just happens I do believe in miracles and through Mary MacKillop's intervention, God saved my life."
Mary MacKillop, who lived from 1842 to 1909, founded and directed the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, who devoted themselves to offering education all over Australia. She was beatified in 1995 after a previous miraculous cure from cancer was attributed to her.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Saying they had not expected a violent reaction to the Malaysian High Court’s ruling that a Christian newspaper may use the word “Allah” for God, Catholic leaders in Malaysia have said there is an urgent need to “defuse the conflict” they say fundamentalists are trying to start in the country.
The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, scheduled to meet in the Malaysian city of Johor Baru long before the attacks on several churches, said it was “concerned” by the reaction, the Malaysian Insider reports.
The bishops discussed the impact and the necessary response to defuse what they described as a “worrisome and delicate” situation.
The prelates said that meetings with civil authorities and dialogues with Muslim leaders are ongoing and will continue.
“We must act in harmony and seek the necessary co-operation of the government and the high religious authorities in order to restore a peaceful environment to Malaysian society,” the Conference added, according to Fides.
The bishops said the violent episodes are “smearing” the reputation of Malaysian Islam, which they said is known for its “moderation and peaceful co-existence with other religions.” They noted that “groups of moderate Muslims” have taken turns guarding churches to avoid further violence.
Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, also stressed the need to work for dialogue, the Malaysian Insider reports.
The bishops said that Christians will do “everything possible” to keep calm, not retaliate, and pray to avoid “a dangerous escalation of the violence.”
On Dec. 31 the Malaysian High Court had ruled that the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, could use the Malay word “Allah” for God. At least four churches in and around Kuala Lumpur suffered firebomb attacks and the newspaper website was hacked by protesters angered by the decision.
Other firebombs were thrown at a church and a convent school in the state of Perak and at a church in Sarawak on the island of Borneo.
The High Court suspended its ruling on Jan. 6.
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI had a “brief meeting” with Susanna Maiolo in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall following Wednesday morning’s general audience. The encounter gave the two their first personal contact after their less formal “encounter” on Dec. 24.
Shortly after the audience, Fr. Federico Lombardi released a statement informing the press of the private visit between the Pontiff, Maiolo and accompanying members of her family.
During their brief conversation, Maiolo “expressed her regret for what happened” before the Christmas Mass, and the Holy Father took the opportunity to personally “manifest his forgiveness and his interest and good wishes for her health.”
The Pope had already transmitted his forgiveness to her through his personal aide, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, who visited her on New Year's Eve while she was recovering in a hospital outside of Rome.
The statement from Lombardi also mentioned that the “investigation started by the magistrate of the Vatican City State will run its course until its fulfilment.”
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - During the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI made an appeal to the world on behalf of Haitians. Referring to the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that had rocked the Caribbean country just hours earlier, the Pontiff called for prayer, solidarity and generosity to aid the victims of the catastrophe.
The Pope invited "everyone" to join with him in prayer for the dead as he also implored that God provide consolation and relief from suffering to the survivors.
He assured Haitians of his “spiritual closeness” and that there would be no delay in the mobilization of aid from the Church's charitable institutions “to fulfill the most immediate needs of the population.”
The Holy Father appealed especially for generosity in giving to "these brothers and sisters who are living a moment of necessity and pain, our concrete solidarity and the proactive support of the international community.”
Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The earthquake that struck Haiti just before 5 p.m. local time has claimed thousands of lives, according to news reports coming from the island. Among the many lives lost in the catastrophe are those of Catholic clergy and missionaries.
The Italian daily La Repubblica reported the death of Archbishiop Serge Miot, Archbishop of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince at 4:44 a.m. (CDT). According to the brief report, his body was found in the rubble of the archbishop's office. They also reported that the Vicar General, Msgr. Benoit, was still missing.
According to the Vatican's Fides news agency, Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza was reported as saying:
"Port-au-Prince is totally devastated. The cathedral, the Archbishop's Office, all of the big churches, all of the seminaries have been reduced to rubble. The same luck for the Ministry buildings, the Presidential Palace, the schools. The Parish Priest of the Cathedral, who was spared, told me that the archbishop of Port-au-Prince would have died under the rubble, together with hundreds of seminarians and priests that are under the ruins."
Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The Salesian Information Agency (SIA) is reporting that an 85-year-old Salesian member of the Order, Brother Hubert Sanon, was among the victims of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti. A Salesian priest who was with Br. Sanon when the earthquake hit is still missing.
The report affirmed that when the earthquake hit at 4:53 p.m. local time, the two Salesians were at work.
Fr. Ducange Sylvain, who was appointed the new Superior of the Vice Province of Haiti last December, described the situation to SIA, saying, “We have been hit very hard,” referring to the situation of the Salesians.
According to Fr. Sylvain, the Salesian house of Port-Au-Prince Enam and the foundations nearby the “Saint John Bosco” Institute such as the Work of the Little Schools of Father Bonhem and the “Lakay” were the hardest hit Salesian missions in the city.
“The Salesians from the centre are injured. Brother Sanon died under the ruins and sadly over 200 pupils are still buried there,” the priest said.
SIA also reported that another Salesian house was damaged in Carrefour-Thorland and that "the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have suffered damage to their works in Port-au-Prince and at 'Sanit Mary D. Mazzarello' in Pétion-Ville.”
Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Speaking with the Vatican's Fides news agency, the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, described the devastation in the streets of the capital Port-au-Prince. He reported on what he had observed of the situation of religious and government officials in the area and described widespread destruction.
Archbishop Auza stated his observations of the situation in the capital to Fides, saying, "Port-au-Prince is totally devastated. The cathedral, the archbishop's office, all of the big churches, all of the seminaries have been reduced to rubble."
The nuncio said that the resident priest at that cathedral had informed him of the likely death of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot as he was buried under rubble along with hundreds of priests and seminarians. Other news reports confirmed that the archbishop did pass away in the earthquake.
Auza reported that many government buildings had been razed. All of the Ministry buildings but one were on the ground, as were the Presidential Palace and the schools.
"Parliament with the Senators, the schools with the children, the supermarkets were reduced to nothing," the nuncio stated.
The nuncio had made his way across the city to see the Haitian President and "express his condolences and solidarity" and found that, because they had been outdoors, he and his family had been saved although their home had crumbled.
People who live in front of the collapsed U.N. headquarters had reported to Auza that the head of that mission, Hedi Annabi, was trapped inside with hundreds of others.
The nuncio said that he had returned to his residence later in the morning to find "Priests and Sisters in the street, no longer with homes. The Rector of the seminary saved himself, as did the Dean of studies, but the seminarians are under the rubble. You hear yells everywhere from underneath the rubble."
"The CIFOR (according to Fides, an institute of study for religious men and women) collapsed with students inside that were participating in a conference. The office of the nuncio resisted (the earthquake), there was no one injured, but all of us are in shock!" he said.
"So many things were broken, including the tabernacle, but we are more fortunate than others. Many relatives of the personnel are dead, their houses destroyed. Everyone is asking for help. We will have a problem with water and food before long. We cannot go inside and stay there for very long because the ground continues to shake, so we're camping out in the yard."
Lisbon, Portugal, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The Church of the Most Holy Trinity at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal was attacked last weekend by vandals who sprayed Islamic graffiti on several statues, including one of Venerable Pope John Paul II.
According to the newspaper La Razon, officials at the shrine said the statues were defaced with the words, “Islam, moon, sun, Muslim and mosque,” which led officials to believe the vandals were linked to the Muslim faith.
Police officers said these kinds of acts “do not occur often” and called the incident “absolutely isolated, not organized or related to any organization.”
“Shrine officials lament these acts and call on Portuguese police to investigate the matter,” a statement said.
The Shrine of Fatima is one of the main centers of Marian pilgrimage in Portugal and the world, centered upon the apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children, Francisco, Jacinto and Lucia, between May 13 and October 13, 1917.
Vatican City, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - In today's Wednesday audience, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the mendicant orders of the Middle Ages and explained how they were able to bring about the renewal of the Church and society.
"The saints," said the Pope, "guided by the light of God, are the true reformers of the life of the Church and society. Teachers by their words and witnesses by their example, they are able to promote stable and profound ecclesial renewal."
Holding up the Franciscans and Dominicans as prime examples, the Holy Father spoke of the lively debates which would take place in the universities, noting that the friars did not hesitate “to enter the universities themselves, as students and teachers, erecting study centers of their own and profoundly influencing the development of thought.”
The Pope said that these orders imparted to those around them “an 'intellectual charity,' that must be brought into play in order to illuminate minds and associate faith with culture.”
“The commitment shown by Franciscans and Dominicans in medieval universities is an invitation to us to remain present in the places where knowledge is produced in order to throw the light of the Gospel, with respect and with conviction, on the fundamental questions that concern man, his divinity and his eternal destiny,” continued the Holy Father.
He also mentioned that these orders gave religious instruction that dealt “with topics close to people's lives,” using “concrete and easily understood arguments.”
Pope Benedict continued to praise the orders' “complete adherence to Church teaching and authority” as well as their commitment to shun the materialism of their day by vows of poverty and community living. “Today too, though we live in a society in which 'having' often prevails over 'being', we are still receptive to examples of poverty and solidarity,” said Benedict XVI, who recalled the the words of Pope Paul VI, saying “the world is willing to listen to teachers when they are also witnesses.”
“There is a lesson that must never be forgotten in the work of spreading the Gospel: we must ourselves live what we announce, be mirrors of divine charity.”
Saints such as Francis of Assisi and Dominic de Guzman “were able to read the 'signs of the times' and discern the challenges the Church of their time had to face,” the Holy Father pointed out, which made them influential in the surrounding culture. Because of the importance of the mendicant orders, civil authorities and other lay institutions often consulted them, making the Franciscans and Dominicans “the spiritual animators of medieval cities...putting into effect a pastoral strategy that was adapted to the transformation of society.”
Baltimore, Md., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services Haiti country representative Karel Zelenka is calling the recent earthquake in Haiti a “disaster of the century” in a message to the organization's Baltimore headquarters on Jan 13.
“People have been screaming and praying all over the place throughout the night. It is a disaster of the century, we should be prepared for thousands and thousands of dead and injured,” said Zelenka.
Most people, said Zelenka, are “in a shock.”
Zelenka continued to say that all of the CRS staff in Haiti are accounted for, except for two. However, they are having a “terrible problem with communications – only incoming calls” as well as the possibility of soon running out of supplies, including food and water.
Zelenka also told CRS that there are “no organized rescues yet – all done with bare hands” and that the damage is “incredible all around, but our offices seem fine.”
CRS Senior Communications director Tom Price told CNA that their facilities in Haiti were “shaken, and one of the walls was damaged, but there were no injuries to people in the building.” Price confirmed that the two missing staff members have yet to be found.
When asked what CRS is planning to do in response to the crisis, Price told CNA, “we have committed an initial 5 million dollars for immediate use in relief efforts. Our agency is geared up for a major emergency response” which will include “mobilizing food and emergency capacity of people and deploying emergency shelter and hygiene kits that we already had in Haiti” with supplies coming in from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
For more information, visit: www.crs.org
San Francisco, Calif., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop George Niederauer responded today to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) recent comments that she has “some concerns about the Church's position respecting a woman's right to choose.” Justifying her decision to support abortion by citing her free will “is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching,” the archbishop insisted.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi told Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift in a December 21, 2009 interview that she disagrees with the Church on certain issues but considers herself a “practicing Catholic.”
“I have some concerns about the church's position respecting a woman's right to choose. I have some concerns about the church's position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they're probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will,” Pelosi said.
Archbishop Niederauer countered in his January 13 column, “Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom.” God gave human beings the capacity to choose between good and evil in order to give them the gift of freedom, even at the cost of many evil choices, the archbishop said.
But this gift of freedom, the freedom wrongly cited in justifying a woman’s right to choose, among other fallacies, does not justify the position that “all moral choices are good if they are free,” insisted Archbishop Niederauer, because “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.”
Addressing those who advocate for “reproductive choice” while claiming to be Catholic, Archbishop Niederauer emphasized, “it is entirely incompatible with Catholic teaching to conclude that our freedom of will justifies choices that are radically contrary to the Gospel—racism, infidelity, abortion, theft. Freedom of will is the capacity to act with moral responsibility; it is not the ability to determine arbitrarily what constitutes moral right.”
The belief in the validity of arbitrarily determining right and wrong is widespread both in and outside of the Church, the archbishop noted.
Touching on the meaning of one's conscience, the San Francisco archbishop described it as “the judgment of reason whereby the human person, guided by God’s grace, recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act. In all we say and do, we are obliged to follow faithfully what we know to be just and right.”
“As participants in the life of the civil community,” Archbishop Niederauer wrote, “we Catholic citizens try to follow our consciences, guided, as described above, by reason and the grace of God. While we deeply respect the freedom of our fellow citizens, we nevertheless are profoundly convinced that free will cannot be cited as justification for society to allow moral choices that strike at the most fundamental rights of others. Such a choice is abortion, which constitutes the taking of innocent human life, and cannot be justified by any Catholic notion of freedom.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, explained that the Church welcomes all expressions of “legitimate diversity” in reference to ministries. He also called on priests to always fulfill their commitments and for those in irregular situations to bring them to a resolution.
In an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said the Catholic Church “is quick to receive in her bosom all legitimate diversity. She is not concerned with human categories that focus on right, left, progressive, conservative. Ours is not a sectarian Church. She is Catholic, one, holy, apostolic, and quick to embrace all, like a great mother.”
The Church “offers to all the possibility to take diverse paths in the common witness of the Gospel. If one thinks of the history of religious orders, of their different spiritualities, one sees they are all diverse but capable of carrying the riches of the charisms in the one Church of Christ. Naturally, they should all walk in unity. But unity does not mean uniformity,” the cardinal said.
Openness to Anglicans
Asked if it was in this spirit that the Pope issued the apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which lays out the manner in which Anglicans can return to full communion with the Church, Cardinal Hummes replied, “Yes, without a doubt. Becoming a part of our ecclesial community was their request. The Catholic Church has done nothing more than open her doors, as is her welcoming style.”
“To the Anglicans who have come among us,” he said, “she offers them the chance to live the faith, maintaining some of the characteristics of their rite, their spirituality, their liturgy, that is, of everything that makes it possible to live their faith without compromising the unity of ecclesial community. This means that they enter fully into ecclesial communion.”
Cardinal Hummes went on to refer to priests who are living in irregular situations, exhorting them to normalize their situations. “The Church does not abandon anyone, nobody is excluded from love and from fraternity. Not even those who have not yet decided to ask for a dispensation, which is always the best thing to do in certain cases.”
“Those who have de facto abandoned the ministry or who in some way are not in the necessary condition to continue ahead, are called to regularize their situations, as priests, before God, before the Church and before their own consciences.”
Cardinal Hummes said that “by officially requesting to be dispensed from their obligations, such individuals return to living correctly before God. In the end, all are always offered the possibility of recovering their state of grace.”
After being asked if “one can repent and come back,” the cardinal said, “Yes, keeping in mind that certain conditions and a true conversion are necessary for returning to the exercise of the ministry.”
Jerusalem, Israel, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - The Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said this week, “We are tired and we do not want any more bloodshed, hatred or violence. We want peace and reconciliation.” He made his comments as representatives of the American and European bishops' conferences were visiting the Holy Land.
Archbishop Twal said the visit of the bishops was “very important because it has put Jerusalem front and center, and the future of the Middle East will depend on the future of this city.”
Speaking to the SIR news agency, the archbishop emphasized, “Peace has not come despite the efforts and visits made by many institutions.” “Today there is talk of an initiative from the United States. We hope to learn about it, as we accept any proposal as long as it is respectful of the law and of human dignity,” he said.
Lima, Peru, Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - During his homily for Mass on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani encouraged parents to raise their children in the faith and in truth, providing especially for their ethical and moral formation.
In his homily the cardinal underscored the “grave responsibility that parents have to raise their children in the faith.
“Raising them in the faith is raising them in the truth. From a young age we must get used to telling the truth, because when there is no truth, enmity, hatred and injustice result.”
“Raising them in the truth is to know that sin is the true enemy. From a young age we must make them see what sin is, how it is manifested, why it is sin, and of what it consists. And at the same time, we must teach them that Jesus has come with his life to reveal to us the kindness of his love, his forgiveness and his help. They should learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness,” the cardinal continued.
During his radio program the day before, Cardinal Cipriani also said that “the great economic problems of the country stem from immorality. The problems with security are because of crime; the serious problems young people have are because they are abandoned by their parents; the problems in education, because values are not taught.
“We have a great challenge in the formation of the soul,” he said.
Cardinal Cipriani exhorted parents to fulfill their role as the primary examples and educators of their children. “May that little child, from a young age, begin to know who Jesus is, what the crucifix is for, who Mary is, and may he pray, ‘My beautiful Father.’ Families, you must educate your children in the faith!” he stated.
Fort Wayne, Ind., Jan 13, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who was installed on Wednesday as the ninth bishop of Ft. Wayne – South Bend in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, urged the congregation to “never be ashamed” and to “always be proud” to profess the Catholic faith.
Before his introductory greeting, which he gave in both English and Spanish, Bishop Rhoades led those in attendance in a Hail Mary for the victims of the recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. “Let us continue to pray for the people of Haiti and let us continue to be generous in all of our relief efforts.”
Opening his homily with a reflection of the Gospel where Christ calls the apostles to follow Him, the bishop said that he too is being called to follow Christ to a new place.“Though naturally I will deeply miss my family and friends in my home diocese, I come here with excitement and enthusiasm, to promote the New Evangelization, in this wonderful diocese where I have been so warmly welcomed by Bishop D'Arcy and so many others,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades then stated his intention to begin his ministry with his episcopal motto “to proclaim the truth in charity.” His motto applies to the laity as well, despite how difficult it may appear to be, he said.
Referencing the “famous” homily on relativism that Pope Benedict XVI gave as Cardinal Ratzinger the day before his election to the pontifical office, Bishop Rhoades warned of how the current “dictatorship of relativism” denies the existence of objective truth and has lead to an increasingly secularized society.
“Never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,” exhorted the bishop.”My brothers and sisters, we should always be proud to profess our Catholic faith, doing so with courage and without equivocation.”
Bishop Rhoades then spoke on the importance of holding to moral truths of the Church, in spite of their increasing unpopularity. “Truths, like the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and the dignity of marriage and family life, according to God's plan.”
Bishop Rhoades will serve 160,000 Catholics in the northern Indiana diocese.