Archive of January 19, 2010

Church in Cuba urges faithful to assist earthquake victims

Havana, Cuba, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - President of Caritas Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana sent a message last week to the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of Cuba encouraging spiritual and material solidarity with victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

In his letter read on January 17 in all parishes, the cardinal said, “In response to this tragic situation the already impoverished Haitian people are experiencing, I appeal to your charity to hold a national collection in support of these suffering people.  I am aware of the difficult economic situation we are enduring, but in situations such as these we must lend a hand to share with our brothers and sisters the little that we have.”

Cardinal Ortega said the money from the collection would be sent to Caritas International, which “is responsible for delivering our aid to the Haitian people.”

He said it was essential to also offer spiritual encouragement and reflected on the biblical passage from the Gospel of Luke: “in which Jesus was in the Temple, and looking up, he saw a rich man placing his offering into the treasury, and he also saw a poor widow who only put in two coins.”

“At that moment the Lord said to his disciples: Look, this poor widow gave more than everyone, as the others gave from their surplus, whereas she gave of the little that she had (Lk 21:1-4).  In similar way as the poor widow, I invite you to share, from our poverty, with our sister nation of Haiti,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Ortega concluded his letter with a prayer “to the Lord for the people of Haiti, for those who have died, for the wounded, and for all those who have lost everything they had but have kept what is most important: life.”

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Paris March for Life draws 25,000 participants

Paris, France, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - An estimated 25,000 pro-life advocates took part in the sixth Paris March for Life on Sunday to mark the 35th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in France and to protest its “blatant injustice” towards the unborn and the “unspeakable sufferings” it causes women.

The March for Life, called “Marche pour la Vie” in French, brought together 15 French pro-life groups for the non-sectarian and non-partisan event. Organizers said a majority of participants were families or under 25 years old.

Participation increased from last year’s attendance of 15,000 people. The 2010 event saw an unprecedented mobilization effort on social networks like Facebook, March organizers said.

Cécile Edel, president of the group Choisir La Vie, called upon French citizens to reflect upon the “disastrous result” of 35 years of legal abortion and the “unspeakable sufferings” of millions of women.

She denounced the “blatant injustice” committed against millions of the unborn.

A dozen international delegations took part in the event, including a representative from the British group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Dolores Meehan, co-founder of San Francisco’s West Coast Walk for Life, also addressed the event.

“Future generations of Europeans will be able to bring about a culture of Life thanks to your courage to come and publicly say ‘No!’ to abortion,” she declared.

France has the second highest abortion rate in Western Europe and also one of the highest contraception rates. The 1975 abortion law’s sponsor, Simon Veil, herself has deemed the high abortion rate “distressing.”

“The way forward is one of compassion and justice: compassion by providing expectant mothers with the real choice, that of preserving their unborn life; and justice with the comprehensive abolition of abortion,” the Paris March for Life’s mission statement reads.

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Haiti quake shows need for Christ’s resurrection, Bishop Wenski writes

Orlando, Fla., Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The disastrous earthquake in Haiti shows that this world is a fallen “valley of tears” and is not a particular judgment on the Haitian people, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida wrote on Sunday. He said such a crisis calls to mind both Christ’s crucifixion and the hope-giving nature of His resurrection.

Writing in the Orlando Sentinel, Bishop Wenski noted the devastation and misery produced in Haiti by the “monster earthquake” of Jan. 12. He said Catholics can be tempted to ask what the victims did to deserve their sufferings.

Referring to Jesus’ discussion of the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13, he commented:

“Jesus warns us not to see these events as somehow the wrath of an angry God. Evil came into the world not by God’s willing it; but through the devil and human sin. Jesus says in the Gospel: Don’t think that those Galileans were the biggest sinners around. Don’t think that those who died in the tower were guiltier than anyone else.”

The tragedies of this “fallen and imperfect” world, since “our exile from Eden,” make our experience a “valley of tears.”

Natural disasters suggest that our planet itself is in “rebellion” against the original order of a loving God.

“And that rebellion seen in nature – from the perspective of faith – can be said to mirror the rebellion of the human heart,” the bishop commented.

Bishop Wenski acknowledged that many times we suffer because of our bad choices and that “the wages of sin is death.” In one way, we experience nature’s rebellion because Adam and Eve’s original sin made all creation “subject to futility.”

“As followers of Jesus we cannot rush to blame victims for the evil visited upon them – nor can we blame God, whom Scripture reveals as all loving and all merciful.

“That doesn’t mean we will come to an easy understanding of why bad things happen to good people – most times we will have to wait with the patience of a Job to learn the answers to those questions – which God will tell us surely; but not necessarily on this side of heaven,” he continued.

The life of Jesus, in whom God became Man, shows that God stands with us in all our suffering.

“Despair, destruction, death will not have the last word: rather the transformative power of his resurrection will define the human project as anchored in hope,” the bishop wrote in the Orlando Sentinel.

Explaining that God can bring good out of evil, Bishop Wenski noted that Central Floridians will join the nation and the world in reaching out to help Haitians. The humanitarian crisis is an opportunity for Americans to show that Haitians are not only neighbors but “our brothers and sisters.”

Recent acts of charity already witness to how God inspires men and women of good will, he said.

“Strengthened in faith, we will not be overcome by any adversity but will overcome evil – whether physical or moral – with good.”

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Overseas pro-life leaders condemn ‘aggressive’ pro-abortion U.S. policy

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - A delegation of international pro-life leaders will attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Friday to show support for American pro-lifers and to voice their opposition to the U.S. government’s “aggressive” pro-abortion foreign policies.

The leaders, from Africa, Europe, South America, Asia and Oceania, will speak at Human Life International’s (HLI) Jan. 22 “The Fight for Life Around the World” conference at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. before joining hundreds of thousands of pro-life advocates in the annual March for Life.

"America's March for Life is now the world's March for Life," commented Joseph Meaney, Director of International Coordination for HLI. “It has become the world's pro-life protest because of the aggressive promotion of abortion and population control that is now official policy of the United States, thanks to the administration of President Barack Obama.”

Dr. Ligaya Acosta, HLI Regional Coordinator for Asia and Oceania, noted that the March for Life marks both the anniversary of the pro-abortion Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and also falls near the anniversary of President Barack Obama’s reversal of the Mexico City Policy, which barred U.S. taxpayer funds for international organizations that promote or perform abortions.

The Mexico City Policy came into effect under President Ronald Reagan. It was suspended under the Clinton administration but reinstated by President George W. Bush. Because of President Obama’s policy reversal, the U.S. Congress was able to allot $700 million for international abortion-promoting groups.

Acosta said the funds are used to promote “abortion and other assaults on life in my own country of the Philippines, in Africa, in China... all over the world where 40 million babies are killed every year. It is wrong and we are here to tell him and Congress to stop paying to kill our children.”

Emil Hagamu, HLI's regional coordinator for English-speaking Africa, said the U.S. government was “arrogant” for “trying to tell us how many children we should have.”

“President Obama is of Kenyan descent. How can he do this to his own people?” he asked.

Raymond DeSouza, HLI's coordinator for Portuguese-speaking nations, charged that the “aggressive policies” of the U.S. are hurting the country’s image abroad “even if they help America appeal to the cruel international elites who want to run everything.”

He compared tying international aid to abortion to holding a nation hostage. The policies tell people that “children are bad,” which translates into “hopelessness for the future.”

“This is a terrible violence against the families and children of the developing world," DeSouza charged.

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Vietnamese government denies 'blowing up' crucifix, blocks Catholic news sites

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Following reports that it destroyed a crucifix and brutalized parishioners, the Vietnamese government has blocked various Catholic news sites from its citizens and claimed that it dismantled the crucifix, rather than blowing it up.

On Jan. 6, an estimated 600-1,000 armed police officers entered the Dong Chiem parish cemetery to protect an engineering unit assigned to destroy the stone crucifix under the pretense that the fixture violated a state mandate that all religious symbols be inside a religious premise. Parishioners begged the police to stop the destruction of the crucifix but were met with tear gas and batons.

The State News Agency of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has accused various Catholic news agencies of “distortion, false accusation and agitation against Vietnam authorities,” said J.B. An Dang, who also said that CNA has been added to the list of blocked sites.

In response to the government's claims, Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh stated on Jan. 16 that “The crucifix was smashed by sledge-hammers and blown up by explosives. Armed soldiers and police men who participated in the attack, along with parishioners who rushed to the site and witnessed the incident knew it clearly.”

Bishop Nguyen retorted, “No, it was not dismantled as distorted by The Vietnamese News Agency in a report that contradicted the statement of the archdiocese of Hanoi.”

“The debris from the explosion was everywhere,” continued the bishop. “Whether the crucifix had been 'dismantled' or 'smashed up,' let the facts speak for themselves. No one can deny it.”

According to J.B. An Dang, not all party officials condoned the destruction of the crucifix, and the local government in Dong Chiem allegedly wrote a statement on Jan. 6 confirming the attack and expressing disagreement its with it.

In other news, however, pro-government thugs were reported to have destroyed all of the tombstone crosses in the cemetery on the night of Jan. 16, including a make-shift bamboo cross that was serving as a temporary replacement for the destroyed crucifix.

J.B. An Dang reports that a local coalition is forming to safeguard the premise as much as possible. 

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Haitian church in ruins, students' house destroyed

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The secretary general of the Congregation of the Redemptorists, Fr. Joseph P. Dorcey, told Fides news agency that the Church of St. Gerard in Port-au-Prince was completely destroyed by the January 12 earthquake, however no Redemptorists were killed.
According to information provided by Fr. Mario Boies, C.Ss.R., Provincial Superior of the Province of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, of which Haiti is a part, “No Redemptorist has died from the earthquake. They are all alive.”  He added that one Redemptorist was “slightly wounded” and another “lost his mother and sister.”
Fr. Dorcey said the Church of St. Gerard was “reduced to rubble” and the “new part of the students’ house was also destroyed,” leaving the students to sleep in the yard.

Reconstruction will cost an estimated two million dollars.


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Pope makes Ghanan region Apostolic Vicariate

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has elevated the Apostolic Prefecture of Donkorkrom in Ghana to the status of Apostolic Vicariate.  The region will continue to be overseen by Fr. Gabriel Edoe Kumordji according to a Vatican communique recognizing the action on Tuesday.

With the change the missionary region in the eastern plains region of Ghana is a step closer to becoming a full-fledged diocese.

The zone had been considered part of the neighboring diocese of Koforidua until it was made an Apostolic Prefecture on June 28, 2007.  There has been a rapid increase in population in recent years due to immigration.  There are currently 17,000 Catholics within the boundaries of the Vicariate served by seven parishes and 98 mission stations. Twelve priests are distributed among these posts along with 110 catechists and seven religious. 


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Details of possible Pius XII miracle emerge

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Some details of the case under investigation regarding a possible miracle attributed to Venerable Pope Pius XII have been made public.  The story features not just one former Pontiff, but two.

On Tuesday morning, Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli published an article in Il Giornale describing at length the situation which "mysteriously involves" John Paul II.

Tornielli reported that this case was brought to the attention of Benedict XVI shortly before he approved a measure on Dec. 19, 2009 venerating Pope Pius XII's life of "heroic virtue," whose cause had been on-hold for the previous two years.

In 2005, a teacher of 31 years of age was expecting her third child in the city of Castellammare di Stabia.  She began to have strong pains, which after many tests and a biopsy, signaled the presence of Burkitt's lymphoma.  The condition is typified by swollen lymph nodes, often starting in the abdominal region, and the cancer can spread to bone marrow and spinal fluid.  Not only was her health in danger, but that of her unborn child was also threatened.

The woman's husband first prayed for the intercession Pope John Paul II, who was then only recently buried in the crypt of St. Peter's.  It wasn't long before the Holy Father appeared to the woman's husband in a dream.  The spouse described to Tornielli what he saw that night, "He had a serious face.  He said to me, 'I can't do anything, you must pray to this other priest...'  He showed me the image of a thin, tall, lean priest.  I didn't recognize him; I didn't know who he might be." 

Several days passed before he, "by chance," came across a picture of Pope Pius XII in a magazine and recognized him as the man John Paul II had shown him in the dream.

The man wasted no time in bombarding Pius XII with prayers for his wife's healing and following her very first treatments she was declared free of the cancer, the tumor had disappeared.  In fact, she was cured so quickly that her doctors pondered the notion that they may have originally misdiagnosed the pathology.

The tests and charts were reconsulted and the initial diagnosis was confirmed.

In the absence of the tumor, she had her baby and returned to work.  After some time had gone by, she decided to contact the Vatican regarding her experience.

A local news source, the Sorrento & Dintorni, ran an article on Sunday offering a basic story of the possible miracle and the diocesan response to it.  According to their report, a Tribunal has been organized by Archbishop Felice Cece of Sorrento-Castellammare to determine the nature of the occurrence and whether it will move on to the Vatican.

According to Tornielli, if they decide positively, the case will be sent on to Congregation for the Causes of Saints for investigation by a team of doctors to declare whether the event was explicable by natural means.  If there is no explanation found for the healing, theologians from the Congregation will debate the issue.  Only with their "go-ahead" can a dossier subsequently reach the hands of Pope Benedict XVI for official recognition.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told CNA on Monday that there is no telling how much time the entire process might take.

He also mentioned that if a case arrives to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints it is examined in chronological order based on the date of arrival and there are thousands of cases pending review. 

However, he added, "exceptions might be made for Popes, etc."

There was no mention in Tornielli's report of where the lymphoma had manifested itself in the woman's body.  According to the National Institute of Health, Burkitt's lymphoma is treatable and more than half of those diagnosed with the cancer are cured with intensive chemotherapy.

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Spanish drug agency confirms grave effects of morning-after pill

Madrid, Spain, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Spanish Agency for Drugs and Health Care Products, which is under the Ministry of Health, recently stated in a report that serious physical side effects result from the use of the morning-after pill, such as ectopic pregnancies and deep vein thrombosis.

According to the newspaper “La Razon,” the agency’s new research contradicts previous reports from the Ministry of Health, which claim the drug is safe for use. It argues that the pill can cause deep vein thrombosis, a condition in which a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body.

The new report comes almost four months after the government approved the distribution of the morning-after pill without a prescription, which made it possible for young women to obtain the drug from pharmacies. 

No regulations are in place to prevent excessive use.

The side-effects presented in the report speak for themselves.  Of the 1,379 women who took at least one dose of the drug, 426 reported bleeding (30.89%); 189 nausea (13.7%); 184 fatigue (13.34%); 183 abdominal pain (13.27%); 142 headaches (10.3%); among other complications such as breast pain, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness.

The results of the study were published last October, seven months after the government announced it would allow the pill to be dispensed without a medical prescription. Experts questioned why the study of the pill’s side effects was not carried out before its status was changed.

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Chilean bishop encourages collaboration between political parties

Santiago, Chile, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Alejandro Goic, president of the Chilean bishops' conference met with the newly-elected president of the country, Sebastian Pinera and expressed his desire for the new government to collaborate with opposing political parties to create a more just, fraternal and unified country.

Speaking to reporters, Bishop Goic emphasized the gesture of Pinera's opponent, Eduardo Frei, as he conceded defeat.  “That indicated that Chile indeed has a solid and deep democracy. We trust that everyone will continue working to make our country a more fraternal, unified, just and equitable nation.”

“We hope that opposition, which is an expression of democracy, will also be constructive,” the bishop added.

The prelate noted that, “following a noble tradition, we have come to greet the president-elect and convey our desire for God’s blessing upon the very complex, and at the same time, challenging task of serving Chile.” 

“From our pastoral perspective, we wish to continue contributing to the well-being of Chile with the strength of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, which for us is essential,” he said.

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Vatican prepares for Middle East Synod by outlining regional issues

Vatican City, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican Press Office presented on Tuesday the "Lineamenta" document in preparation for the convocation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Middle Eastern Bishops.  The document aims to stimulate discussion for the creation of a "working document" that will provide guidelines for the upcoming synod, which will be held in the Vatican from Oct. 10 - 24 of this year.

"The initiative concerns the 'anxiety' of the successor of St. Peter 'for all the Churches' and is an important event demonstrating the interest of the Universal Church in the Churches of God in the Middle East," reads the introduction of the document.

To ensure that the synod is based on current issues and addresses the needs of the Middle Eastern Churches, the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East composed the "Lineamenta," which provides draft guidelines for the meeting.

Between the introduction, three chapters and conclusion, the document provides participating dioceses with 32 questions regarding themes based on personal religious practice, church life, ecclesial communion and Christian witness.

Answers to these questions will be gathered by the general secretariat of the synod by Easter to be compiled into an "Instrumentum laboris," or working document to be presented by Pope Benedict XVI to the Eastern Catholic Churches when he visits Cyprus at the beginning of June.

One question sure to draw attention is the interaction between Christianity and Islam.

The bishops plan to look at the role of the internet in spreading radical branches of the region's religions. "In response to this situation (growth of the Internet), Islamic fundamentalist groups are becoming widespread," the preparatory document stated.

Governments that abide by Sharia law were also mentioned as creating a situation that "always constitutes discrimination and, therefore a violation of a person's human rights."

In a press conference at noon on Tuesday at the Holy See Press Office, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, gave an overview of specific issues included in the document. 

The first chapter covers "The Catholic Churches in the Middle East," which offers a brief history of the Eastern Churches and current challenges they face, such as "political conflicts in the region (Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon); ... and freedom of worship and of conscience, lamenting the considerable number of obstacles to exercising this fundamental right of individuals and of all religious communities."

"Ecclesial communion" is the theme of the second chapter, which touches on Eucharistic communion with the Universal Church, communion with the Successor of Peter and communion among bishops, clergy and lay-faithful. Chapter three looks at the "Christian witness" to the Gospel through faith and works and relations with other religions.  This section also looks at the contribution of Christians in each region.

Touching on the theme brought up in the final chapter of dialogue between Churches and Christians in the Middle East, the archbishop said that it exists, "but it needs to be increased." He also commented that some Christian-Jewish dialogue exists between Palestine and Israel through various associations, but that their rapport is still conditioned by politics. 

Regarding Muslims, the document proposes the "need to promote dialogue, also in order to know one another better, ... and as the best way to resolve problems."

The conclusion of the "Lineamenta," added Archbishop Eterovic, "re-proposes the reasons - not so much political reasons as those of faith - why it is essential that Christians remain in the Middle East and continue to make their specific contribution for a more just, peaceful and prosperous society."

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Church in El Salvador urges spiritual reconciliation among country's citizens

San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - As El Salvador celebrates the 18th anniversary of peace agreements between the country's government and rebel groups, the Apostolic Nuncio to El Salvador, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, has emphasized that in addition to the reconstruction of the country, spiritual reconciliation must also be a priority for the nation's people.

During a ceremony attended by the Vice President of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Archbishop Pezzuto said the peace agreements were “a very significant step, especially with regard to reconciliation and the reunification of the Salvadoran nation.”

For his part, Vice President Ceren apologized to the victims of the civil war. Referring to the gesture, Archbishop Pezutto said: “The State has done it; all those who feel they were involved and have not yet asked for forgiveness should also do so in order to bring about the true reconciliation of the Salvadoran people.”

Following a press conference, Archbishop Pezutto, who was accompanied by Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, remarked, “Peace is not only the end of war.  Thanks be to God it has ended and has continued to this day.”

“The reconstruction of the country in 18 years has also truly been a miracle. However, the aspect of spiritual reconciliation is still missing,” he said.

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Virtual March for Life drawing thousands

Washington D.C., Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Americans United for Life president Dr. Charmaine Yoest has announced the first ever Virtual March for Life taking place on Jan. 22. The goal of the virtual effort is to give a voice to those who are unable to travel to Washington D.C. for the upcoming event.

“With a health care bill that includes taxpayer funding for abortion hanging in the balance, this is an important, historic opportunity to get the attention of politicians in Washington,” said Yoest in a statement Friday.

“In this critical moment, every American must be heard regardless of where you are. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are coming to Washington, D.C. to join the most important March for Life in history, and you can be there through the Virtual March for Life!” she added.

Participating in the march “will only take seconds” explained the AUL president, noting that all one needs to do is go to, choose an avatar and be placed next to other Americans marching online in front of the U.S. Capitol Building.

“So much is at stake in this moment,” Yoest continued. “How many more lives will be lost if the Congressional majority rolls back existing law that protects life and protects us from having our tax dollars used to fund abortion?”

As of Tuesday morning, there are over 21,000 participants signed up for the Virtual March for Life.

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Catholic organizations continue relief efforts in Haiti

Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Despite numerous obstacles, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has continued its relief efforts in Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake that left tens of thousands dead and even more homeless and without basic necessities.

“It may look to many in the rest of the world that those in need are not receiving any aid, but actually thousands here in Port-au-Prince have gotten help,” says Karel Zelenka, CRS country representative.

“It must be understood that the apocalypse occurred in a place where there was hardly any infrastructure before – hence the huge logistical challenges,” he added.

CRS, which has committed $25 million to the relief efforts and received $13 million in cash donations, is working with the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” the U.N and the international Catholic charity Caritas – of which CRS is a branch – to provide assistance to the Haitian community.

The papal aid group Cor Unum released a statement on Tuesday saying that in response to their request, CRS is coordinating the Church's relief efforts in Haiti at this stage and has established twelve security protected sites to give provisions to the victims. Cor Unum also stated that CRS is working with groups in neighboring Santo Domingo to provide further supplies and personnel. Food for 2,500 people has been brought by CRS trucks from the Dominican Republic as well as hygiene kits and plastic sheeting for shelter.

Helping unload 1,500 metric tons of food from a USAID Food for Peace ship at the heavily damaged port in Port-au-Prince has been one of the challenges faced by relief groups.

“Finding suitable distribution points is a big challenge because you have crowd control issues when a big crowd arrives,” said Donal Reilly, deputy director of the emergency response team for CRS. “When we've got so little to give compared to the needs, it's difficult, as you may not have enough for everyone.”

In spite of the difficulty of maintaining order during the arrival of supplies, CRS has helped deliver enough medical and food supplies to allow doctors to perform their first operation at St. Francois de Sales hospital since the earthquake.

In response to the need for medical attention, CRS has formed six medical teams, each consisting of a doctor and a nurse, to provide primary care to multiple sites where people have gathered for shelter.

Commenting on Catholic Relief Services' ongoing efforts, Zelenka said, “we know that the destruction of this earthquake was so vast that even if thousands have gotten help, many, many more need assistance.”

“We are all working hard to see that they get it.”

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Chris Christie begins his inauguration day with Mass

Newark, N.J., Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - The morning of his inauguration as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (R-N.J.) attended Mass in Newark, New Jersey, “looking at it as an opportunity to begin the day in prayer.”

Spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark Jim Goodness told CNA that there were “close to a thousand people” in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and that the atmosphere was filled with “reverence” and “happiness.” This is the first inauguration Mass that has taken place at the Cathedral Basilica in Newark.

Entering the sanctuary to a standing ovation, Mr. Christie sat with his family near the front. Later in the Mass his 16 year-old son Andrew ascended the pulpit to give the first reading, said Goodness.

Archbishop John Joseph Myers of the Newark Archdiocese “was his usual charming self,” according to  Goodness, who said the prelate “gave an excellent homily” drawing from the Tuesday's Scripture readings regarding King Solomon and the Beatitudes.

Archbishop Myers first discussed the reading from the Book of Kings, saying, “We will prosper if we allow God’s wisdom to direct our lives and our decisions. We will prosper if we follow our consciences. Conscience is not some 'little voice' within that directs us. For our consciences to be authentic and honest, they must allow God’s wisdom to form them, allow God’s wisdom to direct us.”

“Otherwise,” cautioned the archbishop, “we are deceiving ourselves and allowing our desires to rule our consciences. If we allow desire to direct us rather than wisdom, we follow the example of our first parents who allowed the spirit of pride to lead them to taste the forbidden fruit. This can happen to anyone. It happened to Solomon in the course of his life.”

Speaking on the Gospel reading, which contained the Beatitudes, Archbishop Myers said “When Jesus speaks of 'the clean of heart,' he does not mean a narrow notion of the heart as merely a font of emotions disconnected from the intellect and the will. Rather, he is referring to the inner person, to the seat of our moral personality.”

“Is following the Beatitudes easy?” he asked. “No. Jesus knew that and his last blessing was 'Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' If we follow the teaching of the beatitudes, we will find that life is not always easy. The Beatitudes are a challenge. But as long as we trust in God and stand up for what is right, we can be assured that we too will be blessed.”

In his interview with CNA, Goodness also praised Mr. Christie and expressed the excitement felt within the Catholic community over his election.

“Catholics are in general very happy and proud of the fact that we have a Catholic as governor and someone who very clearly talks about his faith and lives his faith and holds his opinions according to his formation as a Catholic,” said Goodness.

The archdiocesan spokesman also described the incoming governor as a “dedicated and concerned individual who wants to do the right thing here in the state and wants to bring his talents and his ideas to help the people in the state which certainly needed it at this particular time.” New Jersey is currently faced with severe economic problems, as well as housing and employment needs.

Speaking on the recent New Jersey Senate vote against same-sex “marriage,” Goodness reiterated that Mr. Christie is opposed to same-sex “marriage” and that “throughout the last few years the bishops in the state have been reaffirming the Church's teaching to the people of the state.”

“That, we hope, is an issue that is behind us,” said Goodness.

Given the then-impending inauguration of Mr. Christie and Ms. Kim Guadagno, Archbishop Myers offered his prayers, saying, “Today we pray for Governor Chris Christie, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, the members of the new administration of the State of New Jersey, we pray for all state, county, and municipal officials. We pray that you will be blessed with wisdom, even more we pray that you will be blessed with the wisdom of Solomon – you will need it.”


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Jewish-Catholic dialogue continues after papal synagogue visit

Rome, Italy, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - Since Pope Benedict's visit to the Synagogue of Rome on Sunday, media outlets have produced countless stories on the state of relations between the two religions.  Despite the climax of the encounter, dialogue between the two continues to be a work in progress and important talks have immediately followed the occasion.

Representatives from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews have been holding talks since the afternoon visit between the Pope and the Chief Rabbi of Rome. 

Meetings between the delegations began after the Sunday synagogue visit and ended on Tuesday afternoon after seven sessions promoting Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The sessions closed with a lecture by the French priest and expert in Judaism Father Patrick Debois, who spoke on the Holocaust.

The meetings were developed around the theme "Catholic and Jewish teaching on Creation and the Environment.  The challenges of human intervention in the natural order."

Fr. Norbert Hofman, secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews told Vatican Radio this week that the symposium offered the delegations a welcome return to normal relations after some turbulent times.

Due to the changing of the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews in the Latin-language 1962 Roman Missal and the comments made about the Holocaust by the recently reinstated Pius X Society Bishop Richard Williamson, representatives of the two faiths had not met in two years, Fr. Hofman noted.

"Now, after two years, we meet again, and this is a good sign,” the secretary for dialogue said.  “These meetings have always been characterized by a friendly atmosphere,” he explained, adding that he is happy to be meeting with his "Jewish friends" again.

When he was asked if the dialogue is influenced by the changes in the political climate, Fr. Hofman replied, “Maybe political situation could influence a little, but our primary aim is an exchange of religious ideas, a dialogue on a religious level."

Members of the Jewish delegation include four chief rabbis, three of which are from Israel, the secretary general of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Director of International Affairs of the American Jewish Committee.

The Catholic delegation is composed of Cardinal Jorge Mejia, retired archivist of the Vatican secret archives, Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, Apostolic Nuncio to Israel Archbishop Antonio Franco and six others including two archbishops and the Custos of the Holy Land.

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Thousands gather for abortion protest in Houston

Houston, Texas, Jan 19, 2010 (CNA) - On Martin Luther King Day, thousands of people, including nationally renowned pro-life leaders came from across the U.S. to protest the future six-story home of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, Texas.

The building, formerly belonging to a bank and shaped like a cash register, will be transformed into a 78,000 square foot clinic and is expected to be one of the largest in the nation. It will also include a surgical wing capable of providing late-term abortions.

“Planned Parenthood's Houston abortion super center will most likely become the prototype for so-called 'preventative care' centers under President Obama's health care plan,” warned Tony Perkins, Family Research Council President on Monday, speaking on the wider implications of the facility renovation.

“Already, Planned Parenthood is counting the millions, if not billions, of dollars the organization will receive under the current Obama plan,” he charged.

“And that's just federal funding. As the legislation stands now, Planned Parenthood would be considered an 'authorized care provider' by private insurers, which would flood the organization's coffers with even more money regardless of its predatory record against minorities,” Perkins said.

Joining Perkins was Lou Engle of the organization Call to Conscience, Shawn Carney of the Coalition for Life, numerous other pro-life leaders and a multi-racial crowd of protestors.

The rally was held on Martin Luther King Day in honor of the civil rights leader and in protest of what many feel is Planned Parenthood's racially targeted efforts towards minorities.

Lou Engle has previously spoken on his belief that Planned Parenthood has chosen the building as their future site partly because it is surrounded by minority neighborhoods. Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla argued that the site will primarily host office space and provide reproductive services other than abortion.

“Since the facility will be situated near predominately black and Hispanic neighborhoods, it is clear that Planned Parenthood is targeting minority groups,” said Engle in a press release on Jan. 5. “That is why we are gathering minority leaders in Houston and around the country who are grieved, and who are committed to raising awareness and ultimately halting Planned Parenthood's brazen assault on innocent life.”

Many of the protestors wore red duct tape marked with the words “life” over their mouths while they marched, prayed and maintained silence to highlight the fact that the unborn who are killed by abortion have no voice.

Other speakers and attendees of the rally were Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church; Star Parker, president of the Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education as well as Abby Johnson, the former Bryan,Texas Planned Parenthood Director.

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