Rome, Italy, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Catholic Bishops' Conference (CEI), inaugurated the first meeting of the year of the CEI's Permanent Council with an opening speech on the state of the Catholic Church in Italy. One of the most prominent themes of the address was his call for a "new generation" of Catholics to provide for "the foundations of civilization."
The prelate touched on many subjects including the Pope's recent visit to the Synagogue of Rome, the extraordinary response by Italians in providing assistance to Haiti and papal addresses from the Pope. However, it was the end of the speech that drew the most attention.
In his conclusion, the cardinal spoke of a "dream" of his that a "new generation of Italians and Catholics might rise up" to public offices, where they can "give the best of their thoughts, projects and days" to "marking the destiny of all."
Cardinal Bagnasco said that he knows those who work in politics "need the abundant grace of God, but," he added, they also need to let that grace "invest and work" in them.
"We need a Christian community in which the lay faithful learn to live the mystery of God in life with intensity, exercising the fundamental goods of liberty, truth and conscience.
"There is a growing urgency for capable men and women, with the help of the Spirit, to incarnate these ideals and translate them into history not by the easier path of convenience ... but by the truer path, that better deploys the project of God on humanity, and therefore is able to stir, in time, the admiration of others," he stated.
"We would like values to constitute the foundations of civilization," concluded Cardinal Bagnasco, listing the Church's concerns in this arena for "any way human life presents itself and wherever it exists; the family formed of a man and a woman and founded on marriage; the educative responsibility; solidarity towards others, in particular the weakest; employment as a possibility for personal realization; the community as good destiny that associates men and brings them closer to the goal..."
The first issues on the agenda for the Permanent Council are the drafting of the third edition of the Roman Missal and reaching an agreement as to the territorial organization of the Italo-Albanian Church in Italy.
Hagatna, Guam, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Catholic Church in Guam has submitted a petition to oppose the controversial Bill 185 that would legalize same-sex unions in U.S. territory in Guam. Discussion on the new legislation in Guam's Senate was scheduled for this week but has been delayed until next month, giving those who oppose the bill more time to gather support.
ABC Radio Australia aired a discussion on Jan. 26 between Guam Senator Benjamin Cruz who proposed the legislation last year and Deacon Jeff Barcinas, spokesman for Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
“It's a civil rights issue,” argued Sen. Cruz on Tuesday, who stated that he believed it to be unfair that homosexual citizens in Guam are allegedly denied the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.“You're denying individuals the right to unions that they should be able to get into. But more importantly, you're denying them the equal protection of the law.”
Deacon Barcinas countered Sen. Cruz's statements by saying that though the Church is “sensitive” and “compassionate” concerning homosexual individuals, Church teaching “is consistent and uniform throughout the universal Church and with Guam we have to share the truth in terms of what the Church stands for with regard to civil union(s) and with regard to what this legislation is putting forward as an issue for Guam.”
Deacon Barcinas also expressed concern that conferring legal status on gay relationships could undermine the procreation of children, which is a fundamental aspect of marriage.
Sen. Cruz responded that he believes there is a difference between “marriage” and “matrimony” and that faith communities should not interfere with civil matters. “I'm not addressing the sacrament of matrimony, which is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church,” he said. “They have control over their sacraments. I insist that I have control - or the legislature has control - over marriage.”
Deacon Barcinas replied that the Church, in fact, has a moral obligation to be involved with civil matters. “The church is very clear that this is of a bigger moral issue and because of the moral issue, this sort of makes the Church, Christians, question the very actions of our senators, and this is why we're asking each of our senators to be very responsible and accountable, because there are costs that need to be weighed.”
“And these are not personal costs,” asserted Deacon Barcinas, “these are costs that could be psychological, could be emotional, could be affecting community, affect society, and the overall common good.”
The deacon also asserted that the Catholic Church is not alone in its opposition of Bill 185 and that concern of the legislation is widespread. “There are also other religious denominations and other concerned citizens that are doing their own personal campaigns of calling, emailing and writing with regard to this issue.”
Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The World Day for Consecrated Life will be observed in the United States on Sunday Feb. 7. The day highlights the contributions of men and women religious and encourages prayers for vocations to the consecrated life.
The worldwide observance is set for Feb. 2 but is scheduled for the following Sunday in the U.S. to allow as much participation as possible, a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports.
“The Church is greatly blessed by the many contributions of consecrated men and women, through their ministries in the areas of education, health care, spiritual formation and social service,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.
He particularly acknowledged the service of consecrated women, both those who established past foundations and those who serve today. The cardinal also extended thanks to religious order priests who help to “build up the Church.”
“May this day provide all religious women and men an opportunity to experience a renewal of their vocation and commitment to consecrated life,” Cardinal O’Malley remarked.
The U.S. bishops have deemed the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life as one of their five priorities. The USCCB plans to launch a new website on the topic in April.
A traveling exhibit on the contributions of women religious in the U.S. is touring the country. Titled “Women & Spirit,” it opened at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington on Jan. 14 and will be there until April 25. Its website is at http://www.WomenAndSpirit.org.
New York City, N.Y., Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - Plans to air a pro-life Super Bowl ad with Tim Tebow and his mother have attracted protest from pro-abortion women’s groups. Defenses of the advertisement, themed “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life,” have come from Tebow and the organization sponsoring the commercial.
The 30-second ad, sponsored by Focus on the Family, intends to encourage respect for life. College football star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother will reportedly share their story in the ad.
Tebow’s mother contracted a life-threatening infection while pregnant with Tebow during mission work in the Philippines. She refused medical advice to abort her unborn son, whom she would name Timothy.
Tim Tebow has won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and has helped lead his University of Florida team to two BCS championships.
The New York-based Women’s Media Center has billed the ad as an “attack on choice” and has called on the 2010 Super Bowl broadcaster CBS to remove the ad.
The center was coordinating the protest with the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups.
“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year—an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Women’s Media Center president Jehmu Greene.
The protesters’ letter to CBS executives claimed that the ad uses one family’s story to “dictate morality to the American public” and risks women’s health by encouraging them to disregard medical advice.
The Women’s Media Center also made unspecified charges that Focus on the Family is an “anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization” that purportedly engaged in “race baiting” in the 2008 election.
“CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will alienate viewers and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers. The decision to air this ad would be ethically, economically and politically disastrous for CBS,” the organization claimed.
Organizers of the protest have also sent letters to the National Football League (NFL) and to Super Bowl advertisers.
On Sunday Tebow met with reporters in Mobile, Alabama and spoke about the ad.
"I know some people won't agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe," he remarked, according to the Associated Press.
Tebow said he has always been “very convicted” of his views on abortion because “that’s the reason I’m here, because my mom was a very courageous woman.”
“So any way that I could help, I would do it.”
Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger said he and his colleagues were “a little surprised” at the reaction to the ad.
"There's nothing political and controversial about it," he told the Associated Press. "When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about."
"We understand that some people don't think very highly of what we do," Schneeberger said. "We're not trying to sell you a soft drink—we're not selling anything. We're trying to celebrate families."
Last year a planned pro-life Super Bowl ad from CatholicVote.org on the potential of President Barack Obama was rejected by NBC.
London, England, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - Religious freedom provisions safeguarding the rights of British churches and other religious employers to require that employees live according to their sexual ethics have been passed in the House of Lords despite repeated opposition from the Labour government.
Before the amendment, critics of the proposed Equality Bill said it treated the rights of religious believers as secondary and could have forced churches to hire youth ministers who do not support Christian ethics.
The Government claimed its plans would “clarify” the law, but churches said they narrowed important safeguards.
Lady O’Cathain had proposed the amendment to keep unchanged the current law, which allows churches and other faith-based employers to require that staff live consistently with their teachings on sexual behavior. Her amendment passed 216 to 178 in an initial vote.
According to the Christian Institute, the Government made an “extraordinary move” and broke with House of Lords convention to try to damage Lady O'Cathain's victory. In two further votes her amendment won by 195 votes to 174 and by 177 votes to 172.
It is not known whether the government will try to overturn its defeat.
“We are delighted that the House of Lords has voted to protect freedom of association for churches,” commented Mike Judge of the Christian Institute. “It is a shame that the Government didn’t listen to churches earlier. It’s almost as if they don’t care.”
The Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu supported the amendment during the debate in the House of Lords.
“You may feel that many churches and other religious organizations are wrong on matters of sexual ethics.
“But, if religious freedom means anything it must mean that those are matters for the churches and other religious organizations to determine for themselves in accordance with their own convictions.”
He asked for examples of actual abuses and of court rulings showing that the law is defective.
The Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith voiced regret that the Government had refused to meet earlier with religious groups and “work out an amendment with the right wording.”
He said the amendment was a “prudent course” to address concern that a court might construe the law’s wording “too narrowly,” the Christian Institute reported.
Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - On Jan. 1 new marriage preparation guidelines went into effect in the Diocese of Phoenix. The guidelines are intended to address the problems facing marriage and to reverse “the tide of marital breakdown” by teaching the “Good News” of the Catholic understanding of matrimony.
The guidelines were released in a July 2009 document titled “Covenant of Love.” They aim to respond to the increase in cohabitation and divorce, the decline in marriage role models, and “increasing confusion” over the meaning of Christian marriage.
Couples seeking a church wedding are now required to have nine months of preparation instead of six. Couples are also required to undergo a full course in Natural Family Planning and more comprehensive courses on both the theology of marriage and practical skills.
The preparation will also examine Church teachings about the sanctity of life, divorce and same-sex “marriage.”
The diocese lists problems facing marriage such as the “contraceptive/anti-child mentality,” sexual addiction, and abusive backgrounds. Dual careers, individualism, materialism, a background of divorce, weak faith, and poor catechesis are also discussed.
“Pastoral experience attests that those who are properly evangelized and catechized… those who have encountered Christ personally and who understand, embrace and strive to live the Church’s teaching on marriage, very rarely divorce,” the marriage preparation policy reads.
The policy stresses faith in “the Good News of all that the Catholic Church teaches about marriage” and says a deeper faith will help turn “the tide of marital breakdown.”
Bishop Olmsted’s letter introducing the guidelines said the renewal of marriage and family life was a “critical matter.” He prayed that the policy will “serve to assist all who have the sacred duty of preparing couples for marriage.”
Michael Phelan, head of the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Respect Life, told the Arizona Republic that young people know little about “their call to be married in the Church and to receive the grace of that sacrament.”
He compared the increased preparation to instruction in the culinary arts.
“If I know little about the difference between eating at a fast-food restaurant and a four-star feast, I won't value the whole experience."
Church weddings are on the decline in the Diocese of Phoenix. The counties of the diocese have averaged 27,000 marriage licenses in the past 15 years despite population growth. The number of church weddings declined from 1,542 in 1993 to 1,389 in 2009. In the 40-year history of the diocese church weddings rarely topped 1,800.
Mark Gray, a researcher at Georgetown University, told the Arizona Republic that Catholic marriages have declined in number from 10 or more per 1,000 Catholics in the 1940s and 1950s to 3.5 per 1,000 today. The rate of Catholic marriages in Phoenix in 2008 was 1.9 per 1,000.
Gray suggested the decline is connected to the rise in divorce and second marriages, the trend to marry later in life, increased numbers of interfaith marriages and a preference for other marriage venues such as resorts or beaches. The last factor is especially increased in Sun Belt states.
The full policy on marriage preparation is at the Diocese of Phoenix website at http://www.diocesephoenix.org/mfrl/documents/CovenantofLovewithPromLetter.pdf.
Vatican City, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) -
Pope Benedict concluded his Wednesday General Audience by acknowledging that today is “Holocaust Remembrance Day” and praying that God would illuminate people’s hearts and minds so that “such tragedies never happen again.”
On January 27, 1945, Russian soldiers opened the gates of the Nazi Concentration camp of Auschwitz, near the Polish city of Oswiecim and liberated the few survivors. The camp itself had been evacuated not long beforehand by the Germans who force-marched the prisoners to another camp ahead of the Soviet invasion.
“That event, and the testimony of those who survived, revealed to the world the horror of the crimes of unprecedented cruelty committed in the extermination camps created by Nazi Germany,” the Pope noted.
"Today we celebrate 'Holocaust Remembrance Day,' to recall all the victims of those crimes, and especially the planned annihilation of the Jews, and to honor those who, at the risk of their own lives, protected the persecuted and sought to oppose the murderous insanity,” Pope Benedict said.
“Deeply moved, our thoughts go to the countless victims of that blind racial and religious hatred, who suffered deportation, imprisonment and death in those abhorrent and inhuman places.”
Using the Hebrew word “Shoah,” which means “disaster” or “catastrophe,” to refer to the experience of the Jewish people in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s, the Pope concluded his words by praying that “the memory of those events, and in particular the drama of the Shoah which struck the Jewish people, arouse ever greater respect for the dignity of each person, so that all mankind may feel itself to be one large family. May omnipotent God illuminate hearts and minds, that such tragedies never happen again.”
Vatican City, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - In the General Audience this morning, Pope Benedict XVI gave his catechesis on the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi. Calling him a veritable "giant" of holiness, the Holy Father said that his outreach to Muslims can serve as a model for Christian-Muslim relations today.
St. Francis was born in the late 12th century to a wealthy family and at 20 years old took part in a military campaign at which time he was taken prisoner, explained the Pope. After falling ill, he was freed and made his way back to his native Assisi.
"After his return... a slow process of spiritual conversion began in him which made him gradually abandon the worldly lifestyle that he had practiced until then," he recounted.
This is when "the celebrated episodes" we know the saint for today began to happen, said Benedict XVI.
Among these events was the time that Christ spoke to Francis from the Crucifix in St. Damian's Church, then in ruins.
"This simple event of the Word of the Lord heard in the church... hides a profound symbolism"... the ruinous state of the church was a symbol of the "dramatic and worrying" situation the Church was experiencing at that time, the Pope remarked.
St. Francis answered that call and rebuilt St. Damian's. Later, he renewed the greater Church, not "without or against the Pope, but only in communion with him," Benedict XVI pointed out.
"The two realities went together: Peter's Successor, the bishops and the Church founded on apostolic succession, and the new charism that the Spirit had created at that moment to renew the Church."
The Pope said that there has been much philosophical debate among philosophers regarding the "historical" or "traditional" role of Francis, but he only "wished to follow the Word of Christ ... in all its radical truth," and that St. Francis was “aware that Christ is never 'mine' but 'ours,' that 'I' can never possess Him, that 'I' can never rebuild against the Church, her will and her teaching."
While the saint's intention was not to create an official Church order, added the Holy Father, he would eventually conform and come to understand "that everything must have its order and that the law of the Church is necessary to give form to renewal.
"Thus he entered ... with all his heart into communion with the Church, with the Pope and the bishops."
Pope Benedict also recounted Francis' trip to Egypt to preach the Gospel and start dialogue with Muslims "armed only with the faith and his personal gentleness."
"His is a model which even today must inspire relations between Christian and Muslims: to promote dialogue in truth, in reciprocal respect and mutual understanding," the Pope stated.
In addition to these actions, the Holy Father highlighted other elements that characterized his faith such as a great interior and exterior poverty, his dedication to the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and his sense of universal fraternity and love for nature.
This saint died, said the Pope, representing an "alter Christus" which "was, in fact, his ideal, ... to imitate Christ's virtues."
In closing, Pope Benedict described St. Francis as a "a great saint and a joyful man," saying that there exists an "indissoluble bond between sanctity and joy." Quoting a French author who explained this phenomenon, Benedict XVI said, 'only one sadness exists in the world: that of not being saints.'
Madrid, Spain, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - Various organizations in Spain have strongly criticized a proposal by Antena 3 Television to launch a reality show in which celebrities dress and act as beggars. The groups remark that the program would offend the dignity of those who have no choice but to beg and are struggling due to the global economic crisis.
Among other organizations, Caritas, The European Network for the Struggle Against Poverty, and The Federation of Organizations and Centers for the Integration and Assistance of the Marginalized have rejected the airing of the show “Celebrities and Beggars,” in which celebrities pretend to be homeless for the mere purpose of “making a spectacle of the reality of social exclusion.”
The show’s producer, Zeppelin, argued that the aim of the program is “to show how hard day-to-day life is on the streets” and to show “how unnoticed the homeless become.” However, critics said, such intentions, no matter how “humanitarian” they appear to be, have no relevance since the program is a reality show “in which individuals lose their dignity.”
The organizations said that the program offers a “media spectacle about a traumatic social reality that affects many people who have had very painful personal experiences.” They “deserve from everyone, especially the media, the maximum respect for their integrity, dignity and privacy.”
Caracas, Venezuela, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Church in Venezuela is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the first visit to the country by Pope John Paul II. During his trip, he called on all Venezuelans to “penetrate the social, economic and political order with the spirit of the Gospel.”
In a brief remembrance, Caritas Venezuela recalled the late Pontiff’s first visit and said one could speak of a “before and after” for the country, as the visit marked a turning point for the life of Venezuela.
“The afternoon of January 26, 1983 will definitively go down in the history of Venezuela, especially of the Church in Venezuela as the first time a successor of St. Peter joyfully greeted us from the door of the airplane that brought him from Rome.” Shortly after, the Pontiff “humbly kneeled down to kiss Venezuelan soil,” Caritas said.
During that visit, John Paul II reminded Venezuelans that “the faith must not only be believed but also practiced and applied to life. There is no sector of individual or social activity that can escape from its orientation, which...should penetrate the social, economic and political order with the spirit of Gospel.”
He warned that the divorce between faith and daily life is one of the most serious errors of our time. Therefore, “achieving such a practical reactivation of the faith that overcomes this incoherency is a colossal task,” which the Venezuelan people must undertake.
He added that Venezuelans must “be the defenders within society of the great human and Christian values,” such as: life, peace, stability and unity within the family, authentic civil and moral progress and education.
“Proclaim and bear witness that only brutal honesty in public and private administrative responsibilities will strengthen the future of the country,” Pope John Paul II said.
Rome, Italy, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The Emmanuel Community hosted a symposium in Rome this week with the theme "Priests and Laity in the Mission," for which Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver gave the keynote address on Wednesday. Following his talk, CNA spoke with the archbishop about how culture is affected by modern technology, a theme that was recently touched on by Pope Benedict XVI.
In his talk, the archbishop analyzed the roots and direction of contemporary culture including the effects that mass media and a "knowledge economy" have on the way we perceive the world.
On Saturday, through his message for the World Day for Social Communications, the Pope called for priests to have more of a presence online while, more importantly, remaining grounded in the faith.
In response to a question from CNA on his views about the use modern technologies as tools for evangelization, Archbishop Chaput said, "You have to be very prudent in your use of new media and new communications," explaining that he remembers the first time he heard a confession in which "people confessed sins that were the result of their access to media."
"We should use it to promote the Gospel, but we also need to guard ourselves from its dangers," he stated.
The archbishop also elaborated on a statement he made in his talk about addressing the "implications both for the Word of God and for the Church" that result from the effects of mass media and modern technology on culture, including its way of isolating people and attacking community.
The danger of spreading the Gospel through technological means rather than face-to-face, Archbishop Chaput said, is that "the Gospel becomes intellectual rather than interpersonal."
Sharing the experience of Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior with someone else is "not just a declaration of 'some' information," he said, adding, "and I don't know that the experience of the Lord Jesus can be shared electronically. I think it has to be shared personally.”
"We have great opportunities of entry into peoples' lives with the media, but we have to understand that it's not enough. There has to be, also, the personal relationship because the Gospel is essentially Trinitarian and, because of that, communitarian."
Summing up his thoughts, the archbishop said, "so I think that we've got to make good use of them but never presume that because we have an active presence in the technologies that it's ever enough.
"The old technology of personal witness and personal encounter and sharing faith is essential to the Gospel."
The archbishop added that using technology to extend an invitation to a community or describe it is useful, "but it can't be an experience of community in itself." Personal contact, he concluded, is "absolutely essential."
Lahore, Pakistan, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - On Jan. 25, thousands of people in Pakistan attended the funeral of a 12-year-old Catholic girl who was allegedly raped and killed by her Muslim employer.
According to advocacy group Minorities Concern of Pakistan, Shazia Bashir, a house maid from Lahore, was killed by her employer, Chaudhry Muhammad Naeem, a prominent lawyer and former president of the Lahore Bar Association on Jan. 22. Shazia Bashir had been working as a domestic laborer for Naeem for 8 months and was reportedly the only source of income for her impoverished family.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights department of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, has condemned the recent murder. In a joint statement issued on Monday Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha and Peter Jacob, NCJP Chairman and Executive Secretary respectively, spoke out against the killing and lamented that this incident is not isolated as domestic servants are often subject to extreme violence.
Although child labor is illegal in Pakistan there are more than 10 million employed children in the country. According to Fides news agency, Shazia worked for 1,000 rupees per month (about $12) to provide for her parents, two married sisters and 8 year-old brother. Though Shazia's parents had asked to see her multiple times, they were denied visitation. Fides said that by the time they were eventually able to visit she was already in serious condition. When Shazia was taken to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, medical personnel allegedly discovered evidence of torture and rape. Shazia later died at the hospital.
Naeem, the alleged perpetrator, was reported to have offered Shazia's family the equivalent of US $250 to keep silent after the murder.
Christian leaders in the area have claimed that authorities did not initially pursue the accused because of the family's poverty and religious affiliation.
Angry over a lack of action, a group of Christians and Muslims protested outside the Punjab Assembly for 3 hours, leading the police to file a First Information Report (FIR) 18 hours after the crime had allegedly been committed. On Jan. 24, six accused individuals related to the crime were arrested, including Naeem and some of his family members.
Minorities Concern reported that President Asif Ali Zardari took notice of the incident and told senior minister of Punjab Raja Riaz to give $6,000 to the Shazia’s family for support. Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister of Minority Affairs, also asserted that “those guilty will be brought to justice.”
Fides reported that many Catholic bishops and religious leaders of Christian denominations attended the funeral as well as many Muslims who “showed affection and solidarity.”
Rome, Italy, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - While celebrating Mass on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco addressed members of the media, emphasizing the importance of their task to provide for the internal and external needs of the human person.
St. Francis is the patron saint of journalists and the Catholic press.
During the Mass, which was celebrated in the studio of the RAI Italian Television Network, the cardinal, who is the president of the Italian bishops' conference, stressed that while the media can obscure and destroy, it can also “illuminate, encourage and build up the human person via the truths they convey.”
Therefore, the media have “a serious responsibility” in the construction of the “home,” in a metaphorical sense. Not just the physical house, but “a place where human beings can be content and can recharge themselves in order to live.”
This “house,” also needs a “street” to provide contrast and balance for the individual. The “street” represents what goes on “out there,” but is still of interest to the person who realizes that there is a greater story to be told than just their own.
However, the “house” and the “street” are not enough to fulfill the human heart, continued the cardinal. “A third element, ‘heaven,’ which consists of remembering moral values, must be acknowledged.”
The aspect of “heaven” exists so that the “house” does not become “something suffocating.” “It is the Lord Jesus who opens the gates to heaven,” mused Cardinal Bagnasco.
He concluded his homily by exhorting his audience and the media to “allow yourselves to be guided by the desire to serve individuals and society.”
San José, Costa Rica, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - In light of the upcoming presidential elections in Costa Rica set for February 7, the country’s bishops issued a statement reminding the faithful that their Catholic faith is not just another aspect of their lives, but rather has “unavoidable implications in the field of political morality and public life.”
In their letter the bishops urged Catholics to vote by discerning the best choice “with the help of the Lord” and to use sound reasoning in the search for what is best for the country.
After noting that “politics is a noble activity,” they added that it must be guided by “paths of justice, respect for human life, marriage, the family, religious freedom and the search for the common good.” The bishops then pointed to the various challenges the next president must address such as the country's breakdown in security, violence, disrespect for life, ongoing poverty, unstable families, unemployment, corruption and drug trafficking.
The letter reminded Catholic voters they must not check their Catholic identity at the door of the polling booth, and stressed that the Christian faith “has unavoidable implications in the field of political morality and public life.”
The bishops also exhorted “all people of good will to analyze ahead of time and to attentively discern, guided by reason and ethics, the proposals set forth by candidates, in order to cast a vote that is responsible and reasoned.”
“At this time in our history,” they said, “we invite the entire People of God to invoke the help of the Lord and the maternal protection of Our Lady of the Angels, so that we may once again feel her intercessory presence and she may guide us to strengthen our democracy in peace, justice and freedom.”
Washington D.C., Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent a letter to Congress on Jan. 26 strongly urging members of Congress to “come together and recommit themselves to enacting genuine health care reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences, and health of all.”
Noting that “the health care debate, with all its political and ideological conflict, seems to have lost its central moral focus and policy priority,” Bishop William F. Murphy, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities; and Bishop John Wester, Chairman of the Committee on Migration; spoke on behalf of their brother bishops and called for Congress to “set aside partisan divisions and special interest pressures to find ways to enact genuine reform.”
“Although political contexts have changed, the moral and policy failure that leaves tens of millions of our sisters and brothers without access to health care still remains,” the letter charged. It then presented the three main points in which the bishops, who have long held that health care is a basic human right, and have “supported adequate and affordable health care for all,” found the current reform legislation to be morally deficient.
These three points, which the bishops encouraged the House and Senate to include or modify in their pending legislation, are: the ensured access to “quality, affordable, life-giving health care for all,” as well as the retention of “longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protects conscience rights.”
The third point is the protection of the access that immigrants currently have to health care accompanied by the removal of current barriers to immigrants’ access to it.
The bishops’ letter deplored the fact that the current bills “leave between 18 and 23 million people in our nation without health insurance.” It also encouraged the House and Senate to restrain costs and to apply them “equitably across the spectrum of payers.”
The bishops then reiterated the importance of including Hyde Amendment language in the final health care reform bill which currently “violates the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions and health plans that include such abortions.”
“We believe legislation that fails to comply with this policy and precedent is not true health care reform and should be opposed until this fundamental problem is remedied,” the bishop’s letter emphasized.
The current bills also are a step backwards in conscience protections, the bishops wrote. While the House bill has sufficient language regarding conscience protections pertaining to abortion, both bills are deficient in all other areas. Thus, “it is critical that the final bill retain the freedom of conscience that insurers, purchasers, plan sponsors, and health care providers currently have under federal law,” the letter stated.
The bishops pledged to “work vigorously to advance true health care reform legislation that ensures affordability and access, keeps longstanding prohibitions on abortion funding, upholds conscience rights, and addresses the health needs of immigrants.”
“We hope and pray that both the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences, and health of all,” their letter concluded.
Mosul, Iraq, Jan 27, 2010 (CNA) - The new Archbishop of Mosul, replacing his kidnapped predecessor who died in captivity, says his mission is to give “hope and confidence” to persecuted Iraqi Christians who face bombings, killings and other pressures to leave the city, an ancient center of Christianity.
The 42-year-old Archbishop Amil Shamaaoun Nona replaces Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was kidnapped outside his cathedral nearly two years ago and died ten days later. The new archbishop, formerly a priest of the nearby Alqosh diocese, was installed in his cathedral on Jan. 22, about two weeks after his episcopal ordination.
In a statement to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Nona responded to the ongoing killings, abductions and bombings targeted at churches and other Christian centers across Mosul.
“My new mission is to provide hope and confidence to the Christians in Mosul, making them aware of the presence of a father and a minister beside them in their present plight.”
Since anti-Christian violence and intimidation surged upward in 2003, he told ACN that the Chaldean-rite Catholic community in Mosul has dwindled by two-thirds and now numbers as few as 5,000 people.
The decline in numbers may force Christianity in Mosul into obscurity.
“When all the wealthy people who own businesses, investments and factories leave the city, those who remain will have an effect that is negligible,” the archbishop wrote.
Christians have fled in response to increasing victimization. They are considered easy targets in clashes between the city’s Kurds and Arabs. There is also growing evidence of Al Qaeda and other extremist activity in the region.
Archbishop Nona pled that Christians be left in peace and left out of the political struggle in the region.
“We need to carry our cause as Christians to the influential countries so as to exert pressure on the conflicting political powers in Iraq not to use us to gain some political benefits,” he told ACN. “That is what is happening now.”
ACN described this comment as an “oblique reference” to the upcoming general elections in March.
There are reports that attacking Christians is a tactic of radical groups seeking to attract international attention, according to the charity.
“What is required is an international pressure on the strong and influential parties in Iraq to keep us away from their struggle for power,” Archbishop Nona said.
He stressed that police protection was in place at every church and priests’ house.
A surge of anti-Christian violence and killings has happened in Mosul, especially over Christmas.
Bombs have exploded at several churches, including a blast at the 1,200-year-old St. Thomas’ Church (Mar Toma) on the day before Christmas Eve. Two people were killed and five injured in that attack, ACN reports.
The Latin-rite Archbishop of Baghdad Jean Sleiman has decried a “media silence” about persecution of the Church in Iraq.
“Let us break the wall of silence that surrounds the killing of Christians in Mosul and in Iraq,” he told SIR news agency in a recent interview.
“Christians are killed in Mosul, while the State does nothing. The forces of order serving in the places of the attacks and killings don’t see, don’t hear, don’t speak.”
Archbishop Nona told ACN that the Church was the only source of hope for many Christians in Mosul.
“The only thing that the faithful are still adhering to is the Church,” he wrote. “For this reason, the Church, represented in the person of the bishop, has to care for its followers and help them feel secure through its presence in them and among them.”
Mosul is on the Tigris River and has been linked to the biblical Nineveh. It is seen as the historical heartland of Christianity in Iraq and traditionally has had the largest number of Iraqi Christians.