Seville, Spain, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Juan Jose Asenjo of Seville has called on Catholic journalists to share their Christian identity and be witnesses to the truth in their profession.
During a Mass celebrating the patron of journalists, St. Francis de Sales, Bishop Asenjo called on the professionals to be “witnesses of the truth” within their work, and also urged them to remember the poor and the needy.
Addressing Catholic professionals, Bishop Asenjo encouraged them “not to hide faith out of fear,” adding that Catholics have a right to be present in all areas of public life, including the media.
“The Church has much need for you…and she desires to be the friend of the media and of journalists. She doesn’t necessarily want televangelists, but neither should you hide your faith,” he concluded.
Maynooth, Ireland, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - A second meeting between Irish bishops and representatives of victims of abuse by priests and Church-run institutions was held on Monday. The meeting focused on victims’ concerns and on informing the bishops’ preparations for their upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.
The meeting in Maynooth involved Tom Hayes of the Alliance Support Group, John Kelley and Patrick Walsh of Irish SOCA, Michael O’Brien of Right to Peace, and Michael Walsh of the group Right of Place.
The bishops involved were Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley and Bishop of Killala John Fleming.
“Today’s meeting was constructive and helpful to us as we prepare to meet the Holy Father next week,” said Bishop McAreavey. “The meeting focused on the ongoing concerns of survivors. We intend to relay these concerns to Pope Benedict both verbally and in the form of written submissions which were presented to us today by survivors and which directly represent their views.”
All the Irish bishops will reportedly meet with Pope Benedict from Feb. 15-16.
New Orleans, La., Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Danny Abramowicz, Catholic speaker and former New Orleans Saints player, has said the Saints’ Super Bowl victory on Sunday showed they were a “team with destiny.” The family quality of Sunday’s game made it more enjoyable and showed the benefit Christian values can bring to sports, he thought.
Abramowicz, a star wide receiver for the Saints from 1967 to 1973 and an offensive coordinator for the team in the late 1990s, discussed the American football championship game in a Monday interview with CNA.
Though the saints “should have lost” the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings and yesterday faced a 10-0 deficit just “being dominated” by the Indianapolis Colts, they came back under the leadership of Drew Brees.
“They were a team with destiny,” he remarked.
In Abramowicz’s view, the decisions of Saints coach Sean Payton to make a fourth down push for the end zone and to open the third quarter with an on-side kick “took guts” and told his players “we’re out to win here.”
“I’m just so proud of the team, the coaches the players,” the former Saint said. “But I’m even more elated for the fans. They’ve waited all these years, they’ve put up with a lot of stuff.
“It’s been a long time waiting, but the city is just going crazy.”
Asked what defeat means for the Colts and their fans, Abramowicz noted that the Colts have won the Super Bowl one time already. However, it is still “tough to lose,” especially after a strong start.
“They’ll be fine. With a quarterback like Peyton [Manning], they’ll be back,” he said.
CNA asked Abramowicz his view about the relationship between sports and Catholic men’s outreach.
“We need more leaders out there in the sports arena, Christian values, guys like Drew Brees, guys like Peyton Manning,” he commented.
The latest Super Bowl had “no controversy” and had “solid men of good character.” There were not “selfish” players or commercials with poor representations of the virtues, Abramowicz thought.
“You got to enjoy the football game, you could watch the game with your son and have no problems,” he added.
“We need to take the same desire for sports and use that in our Christian outlook in life too.”
He encouraged men to start thinking about what their spiritual life means to them and then described to CNA the goals of his EWTN television show “Crossing the Goal.”
“It uses a sports format to get across issues like the virtues, like prayer, like how a man is supposed to be,” he explained.
The show examines who a “virtuous, godly man” is, whether a man is the “spiritual head of the family” and whether he “treats people right.”
“We like to joke around on there a bit. We’re not ‘holier than thou,’ we don’t have all the answers,” Abramowicz told CNA. “When we flub up I tell them to keep it in there. We laugh at our own mistakes.”
However, when it is time to discuss important issues he said the show panelists are not afraid “to do it in the correct way, to challenge men to do something.”
One segment of the show, “End Zone,” challenges men to think what they are going to do for the week, whether it is something in their prayer life or in monitoring their patience or anger.
CNA asked the retired football star to explain his 2004 book “Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint.” He said the book aimed to start men thinking by using football coaching techniques like a “game plan” for spiritual principles.
He said men should ask themselves if they are praying daily and going to Mass and confession. They should ask if Mass is “just another thing or is it something special in your life?”
Abramowicz’s show “Crossing the Goal” airs on EWTN on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time and on Friday at 9:00 p.m.
Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - A two-man Washington, D.C. panel has preferred to advance same-sex “marriage” at the cost of religious liberty, the Archdiocese of Washington has charged. The panel ruled that a referendum on a city council bill recognizing same-sex marriage would violate the District’s human rights law.
Opponents of the D.C. City Council’s decision, including the archdiocese, have sought a referendum to try to overturn the action.
However, two members of the Board of Elections and Ethics ruled the referendum would thwart the Council’s efforts to “eradicate unlawful discrimination” and would violate the District’s Human Rights Act (HRA).
“The Civil Marriage Equality Act represents the Council’s effort to eliminate the discriminatory exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The Referendum seeks to frustrate this effort, and would, if successful, have the effect of authorizing discrimination in contravention of the HRA,” the board stated.
The ruling was issued by Errol R. Arthur, Chairman of the Board of Elections and Ethics, and board member Charles R. Lowery, Jr.
The Archdiocese of Washington in a Friday statement said it was “extremely disappointing” that the two-person panel forbade the referendum without addressing religious liberty concerns.
“In short, the panel found a right for same-sex couples to marry by ignoring the right to religious liberty,” charged the archdiocese.
The archdiocese issued an analysis saying that the board did not properly address the lack of adequate religious liberty protection in the bill that recognized same-sex “marriage.”
The HRA equally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, but the marriage bill’s religious exemptions were “extraordinarily narrow,” the archdiocese said.
“Some advocates for same-sex marriage even proposed that religious organizations simply stop activities that would place their rights in conflict with the new law. In other words, that religious organizations and individuals withdraw from the public sphere despite centuries of legal precedent in favor of respect for religious liberty.”
Though the HRA was “well-intentioned” in seeking to protect minorities from the prejudices of the majority, the archdiocese argued, it also permitted “paternalism” on the part of a few government officials who “believe they know better than their constituents what a human right is.”
“By elevating the advancement of same-sex marriage over the preservation of religious liberty, the law calls into question religion’s very place in society. And the city government’s restriction of the right of referendum legitimizes partisan paternalism under the guise of righteousness,” the archdiocese’s analysis concluded.
Pretoria, South Africa, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Management of a large South Africa AIDS consortium led by Catholic Relief Services will be shifted into the control of the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) and two other local organizations. A recent gathering marked the longtime partnership between the two organizations.
The AIDSRelief consortium supports HIV care and treatment for more than 60,000 people with the assistance of a very large U.S. grant. Part of the support has come through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). St. Mary’s Hospital and the Institute for Youth Development-South Africa will manage the program with the SACBC.
At a Feb. 3 celebration of the partnership between the SACBC and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CRS South Africa Country Representative Ruth Stark said the event honors the “commitment and success of the Catholic Church in caring for the world’s largest population of people with HIV.”
Speaking to the SACBC, Stark reported that about 150 people attended, including officials from the Catholic Church, the South African government and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“The program ended with most of us in tears when a 12-year-old orphan told the audience about his life and how the services he had received had supported him, emotionally as well as materially. He concluded by saying how happy he was to have had the opportunity to share his story, adding ‘I want to look you in the eye and thank you.’”
Sr. Alison Munro of the SACBC AIDS Office noted that her office was observing the tenth anniversary of its January 2000 reorganization. From meager beginnings, the office now runs PEPFAR-funded anti-retroviral (ARV) projects and projects for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Describing treatment programs, she said the work day at many sites begins with prayers for God’s blessings.
“Priests and others conduct prayer services and run support groups with patients and others affected by AIDS. Caregivers come together for retreats and times of debriefing from the stresses of work. Bishops support the AIDS committees and personnel who are directly involved in the response to AIDS.”
Sr. Munro reported that most patients are serious in their commitment to their treatment and in finding employment.
“Fewer people are dying. Patients like receiving ARV drugs from the ‘Romans’ because they pray over them. Some children assist their parents with adherence to drug regimens,” she added.
She said the total number of people the programs have benefited will not be known by man.
“The ripple effect is impossible to measure. Our efforts may sometimes seem like a drop in the ocean. God who sees all things knows!” Sr. Munro said.
Bishop Frank Nubuasah of the apostolic vicariate of Francistown, Botswana, also addressed the Feb. 3 assembly. Using the metaphor of the Church as a body, he said if a very small part of the Church is sick the whole Church is.
“…and so the Church needs to find ways and means to alleviate the suffering of her members. We go beyond that,” the bishop commented. “We do not discriminate against anyone on grounds of religion or ethnicity. All are sisters and brothers. Jesus is the reason for doing what the Church does. He encourages us to see others as children of God our Father. He inspires us to extend his compassion to all.”
“Even where there are government offices, these close at five o’clock in the evening but the churches doors are open throughout. People in need do not go to the social workers, but to the churches and convents,” he added.
“As a church we are grateful to God for the gift of hope and empowerment that the American people through President Bush’s PEPFAR program gave to some selected countries in the world to be able to respond to the challenge of the AIDS pandemic. We have benefited from this generosity and have made good use of the resources we have received.”
Bishop Nubuasah also praised CRS’ cooperation before singling out for thanks the managers of AIDS relief efforts.
“You have made it happen. You will continue to make it happen and we are proud of you. You are the visible doctrine of the church and the living Bible for others to see the compassionate face of Jesus. God bless you.”
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Today the Vatican announced that an international theological congress will be held in Rome on the theme “Faithfulness in Christ, Faithfulness of Priests.” The congress is intended to mark the current Year for Priests and will address issues such as priestly identity and celibacy.
A communique from the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy stated that the event will be held at the Pontifical Lateran University from March 11 to 12 and that “invitees to the congress principally include bishops who preside over commissions for the clergy, supreme moderators of clerical institutes and associations, formators of the clergy, and priests themselves who are primarily responsible for their own permanent formation.” Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to receive congress participants on March 12.
The congress will be divided into three sessions with two focusing on priestly identity and its relationship with the modern culture and one on liturgy and celibacy.
Leaders of the Congregation for the Clergy, including Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M. and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza will be in attendance. Other Vatican-based attendees include, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Also contributing to the theological congress are Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and Archbishop Willem Eijk of Utrecht, primate of Holland.
Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - At a Mass sending off members of the Great Continental Mission in the Archdiocese of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino exhorted the faithful to carry on the work of evangelization in the Venezuelan capital despite the changing political circumstances in the country.
Members of the mission will go door-to-door proclaiming the Gospel message in Caracas.
“Today we hear the words of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, who sends us to proclaim the Gospel of love, peace, spiritual growth, salvation and happiness,” the cardinal said in his homily. He added that their evangelization efforts will be a source of renewal for both the individuals as well as the community.
“This is an initiative for the renewal of the faith and the Christian life of so many of our brothers and sisters. They need to hear the comforting message of the love of God, of human greatness, of conversion, of new life that the Lord Jesus...brings us,” he continued.
However, the cardinal stressed, the group will face numerous challenges as the Venezuelan capital is a place filled with people who are constantly affected by the “process of secularization,” do not receive enough pastoral care, and are permanently subjected to social agitation amidst the current political climate.
“At the conclusion of this Mission,” Cardinal Urosa said, “We hope to have a stronger, more evangelical, more spiritual, more numerous, more dynamic and more active Church in our capital.”
“Thus the Lord encourages us today. Let us set out into the deep trusting in his strength, encouraged by his word, strengthened by his grace, united as brothers and sisters and conscious of the greatness of our Christian vocation,” the cardinal concluded.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - A Vatican communique released Tuesday stated that Pope Benedict XVI “deplores” the “unjust and injurious attacks” circulating in the media against the former editor of the Italian Bishops' Conference daily paper.
Dino Boffo resigned from his editorial position of L'Avvenire last fall based on claims from a local Italian paper that he was a “renowned homosexual” and that he had been fined for allegedly harassing the wife of a man he was interested in.
Though the author of the article, Vittorio Feltri of the Il Giornale, later admitted that his assertions were based on false documents, the media frenzy surrounding the scandal has shifted to recent claims by Feltri that the Holy See created the falsified dossier. Those implicated by Feltri include individuals such as the editor of L'Osservatore Romano and the Cardinal Secretary of State.
The Vatican rebuffed these claims in a Tuesday statement, insisting, “These news items and reconstructions have no basis whatsoever in fact.”
“Since Jan. 23 an increasing number of news items and reconstructions have been appearing, especially in many Italian news media, concerning the events surrounding the resignation of the editor of the Italian Catholic daily 'Avvenire,' with the evident intention of demonstrating the involvement of the editor of the 'Osservatore Romano' in the affair, even going so far as to insinuate the responsibility of the Cardinal Secretary of State,” the communique explained.
Tuesday's response from the Secretary of State also countered other rumors floated in the press.
"Specifically, it is false that officers of the Vatican Gendarmerie or the editor of the 'Osservatore Romano' passed on the documents which lay behind the resignation of the editor of 'Avvenire' on 3 September last year; it is false that the editor of the 'Osservatore Romano' gave - or in any way transmitted or endorsed - information about these documents; and it is false that he wrote under a pseudonym, or inspired, articles in other publications,” the statement said.
“It seems clear from the proliferation of the most incredible assertions and hypotheses - repeated by the media with truly remarkable consonance - that everything rests on unfounded convictions, with the intention of gratuitously and calumniously attributing to the editor of 'Osservatore Romano' an unmotivated, unreasonable and malicious action,” the response continued.
According to the Secretary of State, the assertions have risen to the level of “a defamatory campaign against the Holy See, which even involves the Roman Pontiff.”
In the wake of the scandal, many have seen Boffo's resignation as a direct and intentional effort by Il Giornale, a paper owned and supported by the family of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Boffo had reportedly criticized the Prime Minister often in his writings and accused him of living an immoral lifestyle.
The Vatican communique concluded by saying that “The Holy Father Benedict XVI, who has been kept constantly informed, deplores these unjust and injurious attacks, renews his complete faith in his collaborators, and prays that those who truly have the good of the Church to heart may work with all means to ensure that truth and justice triumph.”
San José, Costa Rica, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - In a statement released yesterday following the “disrespectful treatment” of the Eucharist by Deborah Formal, girlfriend of Costa Rican presidential candidate Otto Guevara, the local archbishop clarified that the despite the offensiveness of the act, it did not constitute a sacrilege.
Instead of consuming the Eucharist at a Sunday Mass last weekend attended by the country's presidential candidates, Formal placed a small piece of the consecrated host inside the shirt pocket of Guevara.
Formal explained her actions saying, “Upon receiving Communion I asked the archbishop if I could share the blessing with Otto. I misunderstood what he said to me and I tried to do something that would allow Otto to carry a part of God in his heart.”
“It was never my intention to disrespect the Catholic Church,” she said.
Archbishop Hugo Barrantes Urena of San Jose released a statement noting that while Formal’s action was “disrespectful,” it was not a sacrilege, which 2120 of the Catechism defines as “profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God.”
The catechism continues, “Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.”
After priests were notified of Formal's actions, the statement indicated, they “asked Mr. Guevara to return the piece of the consecrated host he was carrying, and he returned it. It was then consumed immediately by one of the concelebrating priests.”
The archbishop also pointed out that “canon 1367 of the Code of Canon Law states that 'one who throws away the consecrated species,' or 'takes them away or keeps them' commits the crime of sacrilege.”
This was not the case, he reassured the Costa Ricans, “so no sacrilege took place.”
Costa Ricans went on to elect Laura Chinchilla as the country's first female president.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - The more than 80 organizations that have joined together for the March for Life in Spain have released a statement calling on the government to withdrawal its new law on abortion, to support mothers and also to respect conscientious objection.
“Scientific evidence exists that from the moment of conception, a new human life is present and is worthy of respect and protection. This is ratified in the Madrid Manifesto, which was presented in March of 2009 and was signed by more than 3,000 Spanish scientists,” the document states.
Thus it can be understood that “abortion constitutes the violent death of a human being and a terrible tragedy for the woman who suffers it.”
Consequently, the pro-life organizations are demanding that “the government listen to Spanish society and withdraw the abortion law it intends to adopt.”
The statement then calls on politicians to “promote laws that protect the right to life...and help pregnant women overcome any problem that an unwanted pregnancy might cause.”
“The right of parents to educate their children in the area of sexuality according to their own convictions must also be respected,” the statement continues.
The pro-life organizations conclude by urging respect for “the right to the conscientious objection of health care workers so that they can carry out their commitment to defend and care for life and health from the very moment of conception.”
Santiago, Chile, Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to a call by Archbishop Cristian Caro of Puerto Montt in Chile, numerous family organizations are urging a campaign to halt the distribution of pro-homosexual material in public schools.
Recently the “Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation” (MHIL), which drives one of the most anti-Catholic agendas in Chile, began a campaign financed by same-sex groups in Spain and the Socialist government in Holland to introduce manuals into public schools that present homosexual conduct as normal.
Portrayed as an “anti-discrimination” text, the manual describes homosexual acts as totally acceptable for minors. Public schools in various parts of Chile are already distributing them, most recently in Puerto Montt.
However, Archbishop Cristian Caro said recently that the manuals produced by the MHIL promote “a ideology-based vision of sexuality that is completely foreign to the humanist and Christian understanding, which is based on divine revelation and contained in Scripture.”
For this reason, he said, the manual “should not be distributed to children and young people” because it will only further deteriorate the quality of sexual education students are receiving, which is already deficient.
Pro-family groups are calling on the mayor of Puerto Pontt and city council members to revoke a norm allowing the manuals to be distributed in public schools.
Washington D.C., Feb 9, 2010 (CNA) - Three Chinese human rights advocates have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers. The nominees’ work includes defending victims of religious and political persecution and also victims of abuses related to China’s stringent one-child policy.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) announced the nomination of Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng, and Liu Xiaobo last Friday.
“These three heroes have stood up for the cause of freedom and human dignity, and they have sacrificed and suffered for their stands,” said Rep. Smith. “They deserve consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize.”
The nomination letter, signed by six other Congressmen, praised the trio’s “outstanding” human rights advocacy and their “remarkable” patriotism and civic courage. The Congressmen said the nominees’ work called on the Chinese government to operate within its laws and in accordance with the human rights agreements it has signed.
Chen, although blind, became a self-taught lawyer and protested the Chinese government’s abuses in enforcing the one-child policy in his native city of Linyi.
Gao, a lawyer, has played a leading role in demanding that government prosecutions be conducted according to law.
The Congressmen described Liu as a “visionary leader” of the Charter 08 human rights movement.
Chen is serving a prison term, Liu has been sentenced to 11 years in prison but is appealing, and Gao has disappeared under what the Congressmen said were “suspicious circumstances.”
“Few governments or inter-governmental organizations have the courage to brave the Chinese government’s displeasure and honor them,” the nominating letter continued. “We can think of no one so deserving of recognition as Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng, and Liu Xiaobo, and no one whose recognition would be more timely or do more to foster peace in the twenty-first century.”