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Archive of January 28, 2010

New book on John Paul II gives details on self-mortification, kidnap plot

Rome, Italy, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - A new book released by a Vatican official on Wednesday details lesser known facts about the late John Paul II, including his self-mortification practices, hand written instructions for his resignation in case of incurable illness, and a plot by Italian militants to kidnap him in the 1980's.

"Why he is a Saint: The True story of John Paul II," by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, a Church official heading the cause for John Paul II's canonization, was made available in Italian bookstores on Jan. 27. According to the Italian news agency ANSA, Fr. Oder discusses how the late pontiff used to practice self-mortification as part of his devotion.

“Members of his closest entourage, both in Poland and the Vatican, heard with their own ears how Karol Wojtyla used to whip himself,” wrote Msgr. Oder. “There used to be a particular belt, intended for trousers, hanging from a hook in his wardrobe among all his robes.”

Msgr. Oder spoke of how the late Holy Father “used this as a whip and always brought it with him when he went to (the papal summer residence) Castel Gandolfo.” Oder also cites the testimony of Sister Tobiana Sobodka who was in the neighboring room at the summer residence, and witnessed to the Vatican assembly considering John Paul II's cause for canonization. “We would hear the sound of the blows,” she testified.

In his new book, Msgr. Oder also outlines the other self-mortification practices the late Pontiff would undergo such as fasting during Lent – eating only one meal a day, abstention from food before ordinations and sleeping on a hard, cold floor as opposed to a bed. The Polish monsignor wrote that John Paul II began to sleep on the floor as far back as the 1960's and would often rumple the covers of his bed to make it look like he has slept in it.
 
The book also details hand written documents from John Paul II conveying his determination to continue with his papal duties as long as his health allowed. One document from 1989 states that he would only cease in his ministry “in the case of a lengthy illness, thought to be incurable that prevents me from carrying out my duties sufficiently.” In a 1994 letter, the late Pope also stated “I feel it is a serious conscientious obligation to continue carrying out the task given to me (by God).”

Msgr. Oder also discusses how John Paul II learned shortly before the 1981 assassination attempt that an Italian militant group called the Red Brigades planned to kidnap him.

“Shortly before the attack, the Italian secret services warned that the Red Brigade terrorists has a plan to kidnap John Paul,” Msgr. Oder wrote, explaining that that was why the late pontiff remarked “just like Bachelet” to his secretary on his way to the hospital after being shot. Catholic Judge Vittorio Bachelet was previously assassinated by the Red Brigades.

While presenting his book on Wednesday, Msgr. Oder stated that there has not been an official date set for John Paul II's beatification. Though the process is “well under way” the Congregation of Saints has yet to recognize a miracle attributed to the late Pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI announced last month that he was declaring John Paul II Venerable and had previously waived a rule requiring that a canonization process cannot being until five years after a prospective saint's death.

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Catholic academic explains challenges of university life to young people

Lima, Peru, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Pedro Morande Court, was in Lima this week for a meeting with young people about the various challenges they face in college.

Professor Morande, who is also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, warned students that the fact that the university is seen more as a business than as an educational community “is attack on the life of the university itself.” Because of this, “knowledge” is often confused with wisdom.

“The tragedy is that we end up knowing more and more irrelevant things.”

The mission of the university, Morande said, is keeping the tradition of wisdom alive. As John Paul II said, “If the faith does not become culture, it is weak faith.” The university needs to go from “knowledge to wisdom.” “Culture is what cultivates us,” he said. “When we are challenged by knowledge, it broadens the horizon of our interior freedom. It makes us more human,” he said.

Morande encouraged college students to remember that the heart of the university experience is to “search for the truth, find it and communicate it.” “It’s about keeping alive the experience of the truth (…) The measure of the culture of a university is whether or not knowledge transforms us: when it does not transform us we are in the mentality of a business (…) But the business aspect always leaves holes, openings so that the authentic university experience can be had,” he said.

 

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Denver archbishop urges Catholics to fight Satan

Rome, Italy, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) -

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver followed his keynote address to the Emmanuel Community of Rome's conference on "Priests and Laity in the Mission" with a short reflection on the "disappointing times" he is experiencing.  He also elaborated on a major theme of his talk—the reality of Satan and the importance of "spiritual combat."

Just before launching into a question and answer session, Archbishop Chaput gave a reflection on his years as a bishop to stimulate discussion, saying, "I thought that after 20 years more of my life things would change and things would be a lot better but I don't think they are.

"I think we live in disappointing times, in times of confusion, and in some ways that is the result of our failure to understand that we have an enemy in the Devil, but also we have enemies in the world around us."

He pointed to a "great talk" from an American Protestant pastor he once heard which was titled "We preach as though we don't have enemies," and reflected that this sentiment "is true in the United States... .”

"I think it's important to understand the we are in a battle, we really do live in a time of spiritual combat and I think we've lost that sense of the Church," Archbishop Chaput stated.

He continued with a comparison of the temptation we face to be like "everyone else" like the Israelites from the Old Testament wishing for a king like the other nations.  They wanted a king ... they got Saul and he was a good man, and then he became a politician and he lost his faith.  We're just like that."

"In America, we don't want to be different than our Protestant brothers and sisters, or the secular forces around us.  And, I think that's the great danger of our time, we don't love God enough and we don't enter into combat with the enemy enough and we need to recommit ourselves to doing that," the Archbishop of Denver urged.

During his keynote address, Archbishop Chaput had also referred to the importance of recognizing that evil exists and that "Satan is real." 

Responding later to a question from CNA about where he sees the Devil's presence in society, the archbishop said, "Well, one of the most obvious things in the United States is internet pornography which is pervasive, and subtle, and attractive and totally destructive of peoples' lives and there's very little talk about fighting it. 

"If you talk about fighting pornography in the media you're somehow seen as anti-American, anti-freedom of speech. ... things that are so obviously destructive to society..." he said.

The archbishop also named divorce and the changing definition of marriage as places where Satan is holding sway. 

"All of the statistical studies show us that a stable relationship between a man and a wife for the sake of children is what produces good, healthy human beings and you can't say that today without being branded as somehow on the opposite side of freedom and truth," Archbishop Chaput explained.

"So, those kind of basic human values, the value of chastity and the value of family life are popularly seen as 'old fashioned' because of the lies, because of the deceptions of the Evil One. Even Catholics are afraid of standing up for the truth because we're afraid of being branded 'old-fashioned.'"

When asked whether there are any successes in the fight today, the archbishop responded, "I think we're doing a lot of very good things and doing well in terms of fighting but in terms of winning the battles, we're not winning many of those cultural battles in terms of the formal direction of society.

"But," he added, "every time an individual is converted the battle has been won in a huge kind of way, because we're not saved as a group. We're saved as individuals and what pleases the enemy of God, Satan, is that individuals are not being faithful to their identity as children of God. 

"So, I think every time there's a conversion, every time one of us turns from our sins there is a victory in the battle,” he remarked.

Archbishop Chaput concluded, "There are lots of victories, so I don't think we measure our success in terms of swaying whole segments of society, but it's convincing individuals to give themselves faithfully to the call of God in their lives."

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New book on St. John Vianney to distill his ‘wisdom and grace’

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - A priest and author examines the famed St. John Vianney as a model parish priest in his new book on the Curé d’Ars, released by Ignatius Press during this Year for Priests.

“The Grace of Ars,” by Fr. Frederick Miller of the Archdiocese of Newark, is described by Ignatius Press as a “distillation of wisdom and grace” passed on to priests by St. John Vianney.

The publisher added that laymen too will find inspiration to love the priesthood in the book.

“Through his holy example the Curé of Ars will help all understand that the priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.”

Fr. Miller, chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, has led many groups of priests and seminarians on pilgrimage to Ars, France. There he leads retreats on the life and ministry of the sainted cleric.

The book is based on Fr. Miller’s experiences at Ars and his observations of the impact St. John Vianney has had on retreatants. With eight pages of colored illustrations, Ignatius Press says it will take readers on a “pilgrimage” to the place where St. John Vianney worked “so long and so heroically for the good of souls and the love of God, often in direct battle with Satan.”

With the book, the reader can make a “retreat” with the saint and can ponder what he has to say to the priests of the twenty-first century and to those who seek to be faithful to their promises to God and desire to build up the Church of Christ.

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Pam Tebow made ‘brave and virtuous’ choice, defenders respond to NOW

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - Defenders of a pro-life Super Bowl ad featuring sports star Tim Tebow have charged that critics are being unreasonable and venomous in their opposition to broadcasting the story of his mother’s “very brave and virtuous” decision to carry her unborn son to term despite the threat to her life.

The 30-second ad is sponsored by Focus on the Family and intends to encourage respect for life. College football quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam will reportedly share their story in the ad.

Pam Tebow refused medical advice to abort her unborn son after she contracted a life-threatening infection in the Philippines.

Pro-abortion women’s groups have criticized the ad and have called on CBS to refuse to air it. The National Organization for Women (NOW) has claimed it is “frankly offensive” to viewers, “hate masquerading as love.” They have said it sends the message that abortion is “always a mistake.”

The New York-based Women’s Media Center, which is leading a petition effort, has billed the ad as an “attack on choice” that tries to “dictate morality” and risks women’s health by encouraging them to ignore medical advice.

One defender of the ad was Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List. She claimed that the reaction of NOW and other abortion supporters was a sign of their increasingly unpopular pro-abortion position.

She reported that the NOW president Terry O’Neill has told the National Journal that the organization is struggling and “stalled out.”

Dannenfelser charged the ad’s critics showed a “desperation to keep full information from women.”

“Shouldn't the ‘pro-choice’ position respect Pam Tebow's decision to choose Life? What is the worst case scenario in allowing the ad to air? Women are exposed to an example of sacrifice for the sake of an unborn child. NOW needs to explain where the harm and threat to women and children is here.”

Dr. Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission said NOW was directing “venom and hatred” at Tim Tebow, his mother and Focus on the Family because of an ad they have not seen.

"This backlash exposes the irrational hatred of NOW who apparently despises any hint of a positive Christian message. CBS is to be commended for their willingness to not censor a wonderful story of a mother's courage and love," he said.

Cass praised Pam Tebow’s “faith, courage and sacrifice” and said it was ironic that NOW is attacking a woman for doing a “very brave and virtuous thing.”

Though it has not been reported whether the Tebow ad has Christian content, Cass also claimed NOW’s reaction exposes an “irrational anti-Christian bigotry.”

The pro-life group Concerned Women for America (CWA) charged that the outcry was “hypocritical” because they have not criticized shows like Dexter, where the protagonist is a serial killer, or sexually explicit shows that flaunt “shifting morals.”

“Shows like these demean women and are offensive to families, but NOW claims to be more offended by Tim Tebow sharing his uplifting pro-life story,” the group said in a press release.

Penny Nance, CEO of CWA, said in more than three years advising the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on indecency issues, she cannot recall NOW ever speaking out about “sexually graphic or misogynistic content” on CBS.

“I find it laughable that NOW has a problem with Tim Tebow sharing his own story. If NOW really cared about women they would stop flacking for the abortion industry and start working on behalf of women and resolving our concerns about real problems such as sexually exploitative and violent content on television.”

Tim Tebow discussed the ad with reporters on Sunday.

"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.”

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Obama administration formed by ‘aggressive’ pro-abortion litmus test, Rep. Smith states

Washington D.C., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - An “aggressive” pro-abortion Obama administration has been formed by a litmus test requiring support for abortion, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at the 2010 March for Life.

In a Jan. 22 video interview with CNSNews.com at the March for Life, Smith advised pro-life advocates to pray and fast.

“We need to pray for Obama. He is so obsessed with promoting abortion. All of his picks for secretary, under-secretary, assistant-secretary--all the gate-keepers in government--are now litmus-tested pro-abortionists, many of whom come right out of the abortion-rights movement,” Smith commented.

“And these movement abortionists are trying to use everything when we know it, or sometimes when we don’t know it, behind the scenes, to promote this agenda. So this is an aggressive pro-abortion administration.”

While he said former President Bill Clinton was “awful” for the pro-life cause, he told CNSNews.com it is even worse under President Obama.

Rep. Smith called for a “re-doubling” of pro-life efforts. He praised the 40 Days for Life campaign and other ministries for “saving women who are at great peril and risk.”

“The post-abortive work that is done so magnificently by this movement needs to accelerate,” he advised.

“All of that combined, you know, this is the greatest human rights struggle on earth, and I think everyone needs to realize that we need to do even more,” the Congressman told CNSNews.com.

Rep. Smith also commented on the the Senate’s inclusion of abortion funding, which he said “without a doubt” helped kill the legislation.

“Congressman Bart Stupak [D-Mich.] and the pro-life Democrats on the House side were absolutely resolute and courageous in saying they would not vote for any health care that did not have pro-life safeguards in it, and certainly something that wouldn’t have pro-abortion language in it, and the Senate bill was riddled with pro-abortion expansions, more funding -- and so, frankly, that is why it is now dead.”

He explained that opponents of abortion funding wanted “no complicity whatsoever” with “killing babies and wounding mothers.” Polls showed most Americans agreed, he noted.

He added that women who procure abortions suffer emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. They also suffer an increased premature birth rate in subsequent pregnancies at a rate of 33 percent to more than 90 percent.

The Congressman voiced concerns that President Obama and leading Democrats will try to revive the push to fund abortion. He noted that the District of Columbia is paying for abortions on demand because President Obama “forced” a provision into the appropriations bill.

“I think we should not have a false sense of security about where this administration is going,” he told CNSNews.com

He warned that the Obama administration is empowering pro-abortion non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and giving them “billions of dollars at home and abroad” to promote their agenda.

“They have kind of deputized all of these NGOs in Africa, Latin America, and in the United States through Planned Parenthood and these other organizations to promote and expand abortions.”

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Fr. Corcuera urges charity as Legionaries discuss future

Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - In a recent letter sent to members of the Legion of Christ, Director General Father Alvaro Corcuera, L.C., urged members to be charitable towards each other during their internal discussions regarding the future of the congregation.

In response to a growing exchange of emails between Legionaries about two main issues: the role their founder should play in the future of the congregation, and also the measures that should be put in place to prevent similar situations from happening, Fr. Corcuera called on members to “console each other and accompany each other mutually,” as Simon of Cyrene did for Christ.

Fr. Marcial Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in 1941.  Though he died in 2008, revelations of his inappropriate behavior as a priest and leader surfaced early in 2009.

Responding to criticism by some in the Legion who accused their current leaders of being accomplices in the misconduct of their founder, Fr. Corcuera asked members to help one another “live this gift of peace, mutually encouraging one another, understanding one another, truly loving each other, mutually forgiving one another, without recriminating or judging each other, much less humiliating each other.”

A veteran Legionary who spoke with CNA to provide the context of the letter, explained that Fr. Corcuera has asked that the email exchanges, which express “charitably but energetically” conflicting positions regarding the future of the congregation, come to an end.

“These are differences that more or less run along cultural and linguistic lines,” he said, with some English-speaking Legionaries calling for an open discussion about the errors of Fr. Maciel and a change to the “internal culture” of the order. On the other side, many from Spanish-speaking countries think the sins of the founder should be left in the past and that the evils should be corrected “by the faithfulness of the members to the foundational spirit.”

The email exchanges, which have been ongoing for a month, motivated Fr. Corcuera to send a second letter on January 24, calling for an end to the email debates.

“I believe the exchange of opinions through emails between numerous groups of priests, as has taken place recently, is a display of trust and the love we have for each other. But I think that it will never end if we continue like this and we may even cause misunderstandings and opposing positions,” Fr. Corcuera wrote.

“We must all continue working, and seek the best path to allow everyone, especially priests, to calmly contribute with their gifts and reflections to responding to what God is calling us to at this time, especially through the direction which we expect to receive from the Holy See. For now we must let it mature in the hearts of each one of us, as a family, helping each other to purify and build up this work to which God has called us,” the letter stated.

At the beginning of the year, renowned American Legionary, Fr. Richard Gill, announced he was leaving the Legionaries of Christ over irreconcilable differences with his superiors about the direction the congregation is taking following the revelations of Father Maciel’s double life.

Currently, five bishops are conducting an Apostolic Visitation of the Legion and are expected to conclude in March 2010.

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Pope encourages pontifical academies to address cultural problems

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI met with members of the Pontifical Academies in the Clementine Hall on Thursday morning, following their 14th annual public session a day earlier. Reminding them of the importance of keeping up to date with the contemporary culture and maintaining a degree of "originality" in their research, he called for them to look to the figure of St. Thomas Aquinas for inspiration.

Addressing the 300 members present from seven academies, the Holy Father congratulated them on their "glorious past" and then pointed out that at the present time "contemporary culture, and even more so believers themselves, continually petition the Church to concentrate her reflections and actions in those fields in which new problems emerge.”

Members of the academies, the Pope reminded, "are called to offer a qualified, competent and passionate contribution, so that all the Church... can offer occasions, language and of adequate means to dialogue with contemporary culture and respond effectively to the question and to the challenges that face her in the different areas of knowledge and human experience."

Pontifical academies approach questions concerning everything from philosophical and theological research to reflection on the figure of Mary, the heritage of the Christian witness and artistic creativity.

"As I have said before," continued Pope Benedict, "today's culture is strongly influenced by a vision dominated by relativism and subjectivism and by methods and attitudes that are sometimes superficial and even banal." These, he said, "damage the seriousness of study and reflection and, consequently, also dialogue, exchange and interpersonal communications."

Reflecting on the current situation, the Pope insisted, it is "urgent and necessary to recreate the essential conditions of a real capacity for deeper study and research, so as to dialogue reasonably and effectively confront various problems, with the view of a common growth and a formation the promotes man in his entirety and completeness."

Benedict XVI added that "social harmony and, above all, the formation of young generations" suffer from the lack of points of reference for ideals and morals, and that they should be introduced to "an ideal and practical offer of values and truth, of strong reasons for life and hope."

The need to form young people is "particularly urgent" in forming seminarians, he underscored.

The Holy Father pointed out a model for their work in Saint Thomas Aquinas, whom he said is an "always current model" that can "inspire action and dialogue of the Pontifical Academies with diverse cultures."

Citing the saint's ability to produce "an extraordinary theological synthesis" from Arabic, Jewish and Greek traditions, the Pope called for members of the academies to take a lesson from his "extraordinary and pervasive pedagogic originality."

The "thought and witness of St. Thomas Aquinas prompt us to study emerging problems with great attention, in order to offer adequate and creative responses," he added.

Acting as the saint, with trust in 'human reason' and its possibilities, concluded the Pope, "we must ... always draw from the richness of the Tradition in the constant search for the 'truth of things.'"

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Archbishop Chaput addresses the reality of Satan

Rome, Italy, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the Emmanuel Community's annual symposium in Rome was addressed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, who spoke on the task of evangelizing the modern culture and what he called religious leaders' embarrassment to discuss the existence of Satan.

The American archbishop spoke for half an hour at the Pontifical Lateran University to an audience ranging from college students to people in their 70s. His speech, entitled, “The Prince of this World and the Evangelization of Culture,” was part of a symposium that lasted from Jan. 25-27 and was dedicated to looking at "Priests and Laity in the Mission."

Archbishop Chaput began his talk by reflecting on the human desire for beauty and transcendence.

“We are creatures made for heaven; but we are born of this earth. We love the beauty of this world; but we sense there is something more behind that beauty. Our longing for that 'something' pulls us outside of ourselves,” he said.

Examining what God enabled man to do when He created him, the Denver archbishop observed that “God licenses us to know, love and ennoble the world through the work of human genius. Our creativity as creatures is an echo of God's own creative glory.”

But “we live in a time when, despite all of our achievements, the brutality and indifference of the world have never been greater,” the archbishop underscored as he surveyed the modern culture that Christians are called to evangelize.

In his estimation, “God has never been more absent from the Western mind than he is today. We live in an age when almost every scientific advance seems to be matched by some increase of cruelty in our entertainment, cynicism in our politics, ignorance of the past, consumer greed, little genocides posing as 'rights' like the cult of abortion, and a basic confusion about what – if anything at all – it means to be 'human.'”

Archbishop Chaput then warned of the dangers of creative genius, saying that our human accomplishments can lure us into a “will to power” within politics and science and an “impulse to pride” within art and high culture.

“Genius breeds vanity. And vanity breeds suffering and conflict.”

The roots of this vanity, explained the archbishop, can be traced back to the very first “non serviam” that Satan uttered.

Reflecting on the hesitancy of religious leaders to speak about Satan, Archbishop Chaput said, “It is very odd that in the wake of the bloodiest century in history – a century when tens of millions of human beings were shot, starved, gassed and incinerated with superhuman ingenuity – even many religious leaders are embarrassed to talk about the devil.”

“In fact,” he observed, “it is more than odd. It is revealing.”

“Mass murder and exquisitely organized cruelty are not just really big 'mental health' problems,” he continued. “They are sins that cry out to heaven for justice, and they carry the fingerprints of an Intelligence who is personal, gifted, calculating and powerful.”

The archbishop recalled that in the late 1920s, as “the great totalitarian murder-regimes began to rise up in Europe,” Raissa Maritain wrote an essay, “The Prince of This World,” in which she described Satan's works: “

“Lucifer has cast the strong though invisible net of illusion upon us.  He makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth.  He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them.  He lulls us to sleep (and he interprets our dreams); he makes us work.  Then does the spirit of man brood over stagnant waters.  Not the least of the devil's victories is to have convinced artists and poets that he is their necessary, inevitable collaborator and the guardian of their greatness.  Grant him that, and soon you will grant him that Christianity is unpracticable.  Thus does he reign in this world.”

The archbishop added: “If we do not believe in the devil, sooner or later we will not believe in God.” The devil is “the first author of pride and rebellion, and the great seducer of man. Without him the Incarnation and Redemption do not make sense, and the cross is meaningless.”

“Satan is real. There is no way around this simple truth.”

Archbishop Chaput then praised Pope Benedict XVI for his commitment throughout the years to speak often and forcefully against the “culture of relativism” and called on the Catholic faithful to fulfill what he believes is their primary vocation.

“We have an obligation as Catholics to study and understand the world around us,” the archbishop said. “We have a duty not just to penetrate and engage it, but to convert it to Jesus Christ. That work belongs to all of us equally: clergy, laity and religious.”

“We are missionaries,” he continued. “That is our primary vocation; it is hardwired into our identity as Christians. God calls each of us to different forms of service in his Church. But we are all equal in baptism. And we all share the same mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, and bringing the world to the Gospel.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his address by encouraging the faithful to have no fear in approaching what some may view as a daunting task.“We should not be afraid to believe and to love; it took even a great saint like Augustine half a lifetime to be able to admit, that 'late have I loved thee, Beauty so old and so new; late have I loved thee.'”

“God calls us to leave here today and make disciples of all nations,” exhorted the prelate. “But he calls us first to love him. If we do that, and do it zealously, with all our hearts – the rest will follow.”

Click here to read about the archbishop's Q & A session following the address.

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God is with victims of tragedy, reassures bishop

Tarazona, Spain, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - In an emotional pastoral letter, Bishop Demetrio Martinez of Tarazona, Spain reflected on why catastrophes, such as Haiti's January 12 earthquake occur. He explained that such tragedies can only be understood with the light of God, who is always with the victims.

The immediate reaction to the tragedy in Haiti, “from all parts of the world, has been to come to the aid of the victims who are suffering,” he wrote. “Suffering is something that is common to us all; it breaks down barriers and makes us all feel we are brothers and sisters.”

However, he said, in the midst of our response, the question also arises: “Who is to blame? Why do these things happen? Couldn’t God have prevented this?”

“Man feels helpless in the face of so much suffering,” the bishop continued. “The attitude of the believer is one of renewing our adoration of God and asking for His light.”

“God is not to blame for these ills. God is all kindness and is only the cause of good. God is on the side of the victims, He is always on the side of the one who is suffering,” Bishop Martinez wrote. He added that “When God sent His Son into this world, He bore all the evils of humanity, in solidarity with suffering man while he freed man of eternal suffering.”

“God became immersed in the evils of the world, suffering them in his own flesh in order to bring us to full liberation. In natural disasters, the victims are not guilty either. They suffer ills and urgently ask for our assistance in solidarity.”

Bishop Martinez recalled that we are all “submerged in the mystery of evil, which does not have its origin in God, but in original sin, committed by man at the beginning of the history of humanity.” The sin “has repercussions even in nature, which is also subject to slavery.”

“Original sin was a true catastrophe,” he explained, “tearing apart man in his interior, in his relationships with others, in his dependence on God, even tearing apart nature, which becomes hostile to man.”

“The solidarity that comes from sin and makes us all subject to death has been substituted by another solidarity that springs from love, regenerates man and leads him to fullness,” the bishop said. “This new solidarity is named Jesus Christ. Let us come to the aid of the victims with the new solidarity that springs forth from Jesus Christ. He makes all things new.”

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CNA makes news available to Kindle readers

Denver, Colo., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - CNA is proud to announce that our coverage of Catholic news from around the world is now available to our readers via Amazon's Kindle.

For a monthly fee of $1.99, readers can opt to have CNA’s news delivered wirelessly to their Kindle device. The service updates itself throughout the day through Amazon’s Whispernet, which ensures that all of the news is current.

The Kindle is an innovative device which downloads and displays books, blogs, and other media for easy reading, all without a computer. Using a 3G wireless network, the Kindle connects to an Amazon user account to update or download books and subscriptions.

The Kindle’s developers have worked to create a device that is as thin as most magazines, weighs less than a paperback, and is capable of storing up to 1,500 books. It also offers the option of having the the passage read aloud.

CNA hopes to reach more readers and become more accessible in our mission of delivering up-to-the-minute news about the Church in the world and the creation of a culture of life with this new and innovative service.

Readers can also take advantage of the 14-day free trial. Visit CNA on Kindle.

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Activities announced for 25th anniversary of Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers announced it will hold a series of events to commemorate its 25th anniversary, which will have as its central event a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on February 11.

February 11 is also the 18th World Day of the Sick.

The first event will take place on February 9 in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, featuring an exhibit of 28 paintings by Francesco Guadagnuolo. The main subject of the paintings, “which were created using various techniques, is the Venerable John Paul II--who 25 years ago instituted this Pontifical Council--and his relationship with suffering.”

The secretary of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop Jose Redrado, explained that the exhibit is part of the religious celebrations scheduled for the 25th anniversary. It will take place over three days and focus on the title of Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the occasion: “The Church in the service of love for those who suffer.”

In this same spirit, a concert will be held on February 10 at the Paul VI Hall with Claudia Koll as host and performances by pianists Rolf-Peter Wille of Germany and Lina Yeh of Taiwan, together with the Junior Orchestra of the Conservatory of St. Cecilia of Rome.

On February 9 and 10, an international symposium will take place at the New Hall of the Synod on two apostolic letters: “Salvifici Doloris” by John Paul II and the motu propio “Dolentium Hominum” with which the late Pontiff instituted the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

On the morning of February 11, the 18th World Day of the Sick, the relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous will arrive in Rome, and Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following the celebration the Holy Father will greet the sick.

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Peruvian archbishop urges prayers for country's mudslide victims

Cusco, Peru, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Juan Antonio Ugarte Perez of Cusco, Peru called for prayers for the residents in southern Andean region of Anta, where torrential rains and building collapses have caused serious damage.

“We need to organize ourselves to confront the emergency together.” He explained that Caritas Cusco is sending supplies such as food, medicine, clothing and electric blankets “to those families that have lost everything.”

He added that Caritas Cusco delivered its first load of aid on January 25 to the town of Izcuchaca, where 50 families have been left homeless.

“Considering that the emergency is growing as well as the number of those affected, no amount of aid is sufficient,” Archbishop Ugarte said. He the urged “all Peruvians to show solidarity with those affected.”

The building collapses have affected some 2,000 tourists who are “trapped” in the town of Aguas Calientes, where buses depart to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

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Papal message for Lent 2010 to be released

Vatican City, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - On Feb. 4, Pope Benedict XVI will release his official message for Lent.  The title of his 2010 message for the Lenten season is "The Righteousness of God has been manifested through Faith in Christ."

The presentation of Pope's words will be overseen by the President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, in the John Paul II Hall of the Holy See's Press Office.

Also taking part in the message's release will be Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, president emeritus of the European Parliament and Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, under-secretary of Cor Unum.

The Pope's message takes its theme from the Book of Romans. The season of Lent begins on Feb. 17 this year.

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Bishop suspends abortion-supporting, environmentalist priest

Lima, Peru, Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop Carmelo Martinez Lazaro of Cajamarca in northern Peru has suspended  the controversial priest, Father Marco Arana, both because of his participation in partisan politics and for voicing his support for abortion on several occasions.

The decision to suspend Fr. Arana, who was notified by letter from the diocese, was made after the bishop asked him on various occasions to distance himself from political activism and to publicly correct his statement that abortion is “an issue of conscience for women,” a position contrary to the teachings of the Church.

Fr.  Arana gained notoriety for his involvement in an environmentalist NGO opposed to the mining activities in the Peruvian province of Cajamarca.

His environmental activism slowly turned into political participation, culminating in the creation of a left-wing political movement called “Land and Freedom,” which he was planning to lead as a presidential candidate in Peru.

Bishop Martinez said in his letter that despite the reiterated requests to distance himself from political involvement and to clarify his position on abortion, the priest remained obstinate.

The suspension means Fr. Arana will not be able to wear the Roman collar or celebrate Mass or the sacraments in public, so long as he refuses to amend his conduct.

 

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German homeschooling family granted political asylum in U.S.

Memphis, Tenn., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - Earlier this week, a U.S. immigration court granted political asylum to a Christian family who fled their native Germany after being fined and threatened with losing custody of their children for homeschooling them.

On Tuesday, Tennessee Judge Lawrence Burman called Germany's actions with the Romeike family a violation of their human rights and “repellent to everything we believe as Americans” before passing a ruling that allowed them to stay in the U.S.

Though the ruling has not officially been made available, Judge Burman was quoted by the German newspaper Der Spiegel as saying that the family had “a well-founded fear of persecution.”

The Romeike family is being legally defended by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which said in a Jan. 28 statement that homeschoolers are “a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress.”

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike decided to pull their children from public school in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg in 2008 over a concern that their children were being taught an “anti-Christian worldview.” The Romeikes chose to educate their five children at home, which is prohibited by the individual German state's constitutions.

After fighting with local authorities, the Romieke's emigrated to the U.S. and applied for political asylum in 2009. They now live in Morristown, Tennessee. Uwe Romeike was quoted on Tuesday as saying he was “so grateful to the judge for his ruling.”

HSLDA attorney and director for international relations Mike Donnelly called the ruling in favor of the Romeike's “embarrassing for Germany.”

According to Der Spiegel, in late 2006 the German Constitutional Court ruled that parents are not allowed to keep their children from attending school due to their religious views and said that exposure to other religious beliefs was completely acceptable for children.

In 2007, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that parents could be even be denied custody of their children should they fail to cooperate with the mandate as the public has a vested interest in “parallel societies” based on religious beliefs or worldview.

“There is no safety for homeschoolers in Germany,” Donnelly remarked on Thursday. “The two highest courts in Germany have ruled that it is acceptable for the German government to ‘stamp out’ homeschoolers as some kind of ‘parallel society.’ The reasoning is flawed. Valid research shows that homeschoolers excel academically and socially. German courts are simply ignoring the truth that exists all over the world where homeschooling is practiced.”

Der Spiegel touched on the history of education in Germany, explaining that mandatory school attendance was born out of a right to attend school as opposed to a compulsion. Some have also defended the German government in this situation, saying that parents have a wide range of education options in the country.

Lutz Görgens, the German consul for the southeastern United States, told the Associated Press in an email that “parents may choose among public, private and religious schools” even alternative ones such as “Waldorf or Montessori” and that mandatory attendance allows for a high standard in education.

“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without undue government interference,” countered attorney Roger Kiska, who worked with HSLDA on the Romeike case. “The immigration court has clearly recognized that basic human rights are being violated by the German policy of persecuting home-schooling families. Many Americans are simply unaware of just how bad the policy is. We hope this ruling sheds light on a predatory policy that the German government ought to end immediately.”

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Burden of proof to overturn Prop. 8 was unmet, backers say as testimony ends

San Francisco, Calif., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - The testimony period of the trial of California’s Proposition 8 ended on Wednesday. Backers of the measure claimed that those seeking to overturn it did not meet the burden of proof but had produced a “spectacular show trial of irrelevant evidence.” Opponents claimed it was based in discredited religious beliefs and prejudice comparable to racism.

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker said he would review evidence before the closing arguments, which will likely be held in March or April.

Prop. 8, the contested 2008 ballot measure, passed by more than 52 percent of voters and restored the definition of marriage in California as a union of a man and a woman.

Backers of Prop. 8 have said there is a rational, nondiscriminatory basis for the voters’ action. Opponents have contended that a rational basis was unproven and that the measure must pass a higher standard.

They said that homosexual rights are entitled to the standard of legal protection as racial minority rights, claiming that homosexuals lack political power and have been discriminated against on the basis of a characteristic they claim cannot change.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had recognized marriage as a fundamental right and therefore there was no legal reason to deny marriage to homosexuals. They claimed Prop. 8 was a product of anti-homosexual prejudice rooted in long-discredited religious and psychological theories about homosexuality.

"We said on the first day of trial we would prove three things," commended plaintiffs’ lawyer David Boes after the trial testimony ended, cbs5.com reports. "Marriage is a fundamental right; that depriving gays and lesbians the right to marry hurts them and hurts their children; and there was no reason, no societal benefit in not allowing them to get married."

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Lead Counsel Austin R. Nimocks reported on the ADF website that one of the defense’s witnesses was David Blankenhorn, a liberal Democrat who has historically supported homosexual political causes including domestic partnerships.

However, he believed marriage should be reserved to a union between man and woman.

Blankenhorn’s opposition to overturning Prop. 8 threw “a huge wrench” into the plaintiffs’ case, according to Nimocks.

Andy Pugno, general counsel of Prop. 8 backer ProtectMarriage.com, thought his team did a “remarkable job” in its defense.

He said in a statement that “sensationalism” should not excuse the plaintiffs’ burden of proof.

“Contrary to their public relations claims, the outcome of this case does not depend on whether the Prop 8 sponsors can prove that homosexual marriage will harm traditional marriage. The controlling legal issue is not whether homosexual marriage is good or bad, but rather whether the people have the right to decide what is best,” Pugno argued. “The plaintiffs simply did not carry that burden.”

Nonetheless, he said the defense had shown that the longstanding definition of marriage is rational because marriage “benefits children, not just the adults.” A household with a mother and a father is “best for a child” and marriage between a man and a woman is the only relationship that can “biologically serve that distinct purpose,” Pugno said.

“A same-sex relationship can never offer a child both a mother and father. It's that simple.”

Pugno claimed the plaintiffs had produced a “spectacular show trial of irrelevant evidence” with assertions that recognizing same-sex “marriage” would increase tax revenues, help homosexual couples accumulate greater wealth, and improve their self-esteem.

He said these were social and political arguments, not legal arguments pertinent to the constitutionality of Prop. 8.

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Poll: Young Americans losing confidence in country's moral direction

New Haven, Conn., Jan 28, 2010 (CNA) - According to a recent poll conducted by the Marist Institute for the Knights of Columbus, young Americans are increasingly doubting the nation's ethical standards in business as well as the government's ability to handle the economy.

“A year into the Obama administration, we find that Americans – and younger Americans – are having a crisis of confidence,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, on Thursday.

The poll found that American adults and Millennials (those between 18 and 29) are worried about their careers in this economy, opposed government regulation and business greed, and even felt that the country is headed in the wrong direction morally.

“People are increasingly pessimistic about the government's ability to handle the economic crisis and a majority believes that increased government regulation will hurt the economy,” said Anderson.

According to the poll, 59 percent of American adults and 55 percent of Millennials doubted the government's ability to handle the economic crisis.  The poll also found that 55 percent of American adults want a free market approach and oppose greater government regulation and 53 percent of Millennials agree.

On the issue of the moral status of the nation, 67 percent of American adults and 60 percent of Millennials believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Fifty-five percent of both American adults and Millennials also worry that the current economic situation will have a long term impact on their careers.

Anderson also commented on the findings related to ethics, stating, “most Americans are unhappy with the ethical environment in business. They want less greed, and the same core values that govern an executive's personal life to also govern business decisions. In other words, Americans neither want sleight of hand on Wall Street or a heavy hand from Washington, and these attitudes are shared by America’s young adults.”

The Marist Institute poll was part of the larger Knights of Columbus' Moral Compass Project which is a series of surveys on the ethical attitudes of Americans.

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