Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Jean Lafitte, has indicated that a handbook the council is currently preparing on marriage will be directed toward ministers, priests and pastoral workers who prepare engaged couples to receive the sacrament.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Archbishop Lafitte said the new document “will be easily accessible,” reports ANSA news agency. He noted that it was created not only for pastoral reasons, but also for anthropological needs, as the requirements of marriage preparation vary greatly from place to place.
He added that oftentimes, people who seek priests for marriage preparation have “no idea what the Church is asking of them,” or do not necessarily know “what the sacrament of marriage even is.”
St. Paul, Minn., Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - After learning that the mission of the Church is unclear to some Catholics, Archbishop John C. Niendstedt has emphasized that the Christian mission is to “continue the works of Jesus Christ” and to make his name “known and loved.”
The Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s comments were published in The Catholic Spirit as part of a reflection on planning sessions for parishes and Catholic schools.
The sessions collected comments from Catholics. According to the archbishop, Catholics hoped their faith would grow stronger in the future. They had “an overall sense of hopefulness.”
Archbishop Nienstedt thought the most interesting statement suggested that the archdiocese should clarify the mission of the Church.
“I found this intriguing because I always assumed that the mission of the Church was clear to all her members,” he wrote.
He quoted from “The Church,” a work of theologian Fr. Hans Kung authored before his more controversial writings:
“…without the raising of Jesus from the dead the community of believers, the Church, is meaningless. Only the certainty that the Crucified Christ lives on as the Risen Christ, glorified by God, gives us the solution to the riddle of Jesus as a person and makes the Church possible and real.”
The first Christian disciples’ affirmation of this faith gave birth to a new community which celebrated the “breaking of the bread” with “glad hearts,” Fr. Kung wrote, quoting Acts 2.
The theologian said this new group was an “eschatological community of salvation.” He used the theological word for “last things” such as heaven, hell, the general judgment of mankind by God, and the resurrection of the body.
Archbishop Nienstedt explained that the source of the Church’s mission is the conviction that Christ is risen and fully alive and present to the community of believing Christians.
He noted Jesus Christ’s words at the start of the Gospel of Mark: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The prelate then cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
He pointed to Christ’s words in John 20: “As the Father has sent me so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Noting the root of the word “mission” means being “sent,” Archbishop Nienstedt said the Church is “sent into the world to continue the works of Jesus Christ.” He listed works such as preaching, teaching, healing, and acts of charity and justice.
Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must “make the name of Jesus known and loved,” the archbishop added, using a phrase of Archbishop emeritus Harry Flynn. The celebration of Christ “in word and sacrament” is basic to this mission.
All the programs and activities of a parish can build up the Church’s mission and should be prioritized for that purpose, the archbishop wrote.
Lahore, Pakistan, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - A prominent Presbyterian bishop in Pakistan will lead a team of lawyers following the case of Shazia Bashir, a 12-year-old Catholic girl allegedly tortured, raped and killed on Jan. 22 by a wealthy Muslim lawyer in Lahore.
Bishop Timothy Nasir, Moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in Pakistan, is a canonist and jurist and rector of the Theological Seminary of Gujranwala. Fides reports that he is a well-known newspaper columnist and defender of religious minorities.
His appointment was reportedly necessary because of pressures and threats surrounding proceedings against the accused murderer, Choudry Naeem.
Shazia Bashir, a house maid from Lahore, had been working as a domestic laborer for Naeem for eight months at a salary equivalent to about $12 per month. She was reported to be the only source of income for her impoverished family even though child labor is illegal in the country.
Her parents asked to see her multiple times but were denied visitation. They were finally allowed to visit and found her in serious condition.
Bashir was taken to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, where medical personnel reportedly discovered evidence of torture and rape. The girl later died at the hospital.
Her employer Naeem, former President of the High Court of Lahore, is an influential figure who has close relations with the Pakistani army, the Punjab government, and the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz). Recently lawyers associations and trade unions have defended him.
He was alleged to have offered Shazia’s family the equivalent of $250 to keep silent.
There have been threats and acts of intimidation against lawyers who would side with Shazia Bashir, Fides reports. An initial hearing called by the magistrate had been postponed because no lawyer represented the victim’s family, who was pressing the charges.
Doctors serving Naeem’s defense team have argued there were no signs of torture or rape on Bashir’s body. There are fears Punjab authorities want the case thrown out or manipulated to save Naeem.
Associations defending the rights of Christians say they will “not let the case of Shazia go unpunished.”
“The presence of a prominent figure like Bishop Nasir to follow the case, presents a guarantee and a hope for us all,” sources with the Church in Pakistan tell Fides.
New Haven, Conn., Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - A new survey of “Millennials” shows the generation of young Catholic adults to be more pro-life and interested in learning more about their religion. While many are sympathetic to moral relativism and are indifferent to sexual ethics, the head Knight of Columbus said their interest in religious education was an “especially good sign.”
The survey, conducted by the Marist Institute on behalf of the Knights of Columbus, took place from December 23, 2009 to January 4, 2010.
About 85 percent of self-described Catholic Millennials believe in God, compared to 76 percent of the wider population.
Only one in four young Catholics attends religious services at least once a month. While Millennials overall were evenly split on whether people should only practice one religion, Catholics were more likely to approve of practicing more than one religion.
However, about 65 percent of young Catholics were somewhat or very interested in having more education about their religion.
Given the option of saying morals are “fixed and based on unchanging standards,” about 82 percent of young Catholics said that morals are relative. Asked about particular ethical questions, survey respondents often favored saying a topic was “not a moral issue” rather than saying it was morally wrong or acceptable.
Millennial Catholics were evenly split on whether people should have different business and personal ethical standards, though their peers favored more consistency.
While 31 percent of their peers say being spiritual or close to God is a long-term life goal, only 18 percent of Catholics this age named that as their goal. They prioritized getting married and having a family.
Six in ten Millennials oppose abortion, with opposition slightly stronger among Catholics. On embryonic stem cell research, Catholics mirror their peers. About 37 percent said the research is morally acceptable, while only 32 percent said it is wrong.
Catholic Millennials are morally opposed to assisted suicide at a rate somewhat higher than their non-Catholic peers. They were less likely than their peers to say drug use is morally wrong.
On issues of sex and marriage, nine in ten young people say marital infidelity is morally wrong. About 35 percent said divorce is morally wrong and only one in four young Catholics said it is morally acceptable.
Only 20 percent of Catholic Millennials said sexual relations between an unmarried man and woman are wrong, while almost four in ten said they are acceptable.
About 35 percent of young Catholics said homosexual relations are morally wrong, but slightly more said they are acceptable. They showed slightly more opposition to same-sex “marriage,” but less than their peers. Only 28 percent of all Millennials deemed such unions morally acceptable, while 47 percent described them as wrong.
More than one-third of young Catholics see themselves as politically liberal.
“It is very important for the Church to understand the outlook of the next generation of adult Catholics,” said Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson in comments about the survey report.
“Catholic Millennials support Church teaching in a wide variety of areas, including contentious issues like abortion and euthanasia. In other areas, the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken so much about is very evident, and it confirms the wisdom of his attention to this question as central to the New Evangelization.”
He said it was “especially good news” to see that so many Catholics want to learn more about their faith.
“The Church has a great opportunity to evangelize, and has much to build on with the next generation of Catholics, but it must act and teach in a way that makes clear the reasons for Church teaching as part of what our Pope has called our 'yes' to Jesus Christ."
Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy See has confirmed that on Ash Wednesday, Benedict XVI will preside over a moment of prayer at the Church of St. Anselm as well as Mass at the Basilica of St. Sabina.
This year the Lenten Season begins on Wednesday, February 17.
The events will begin on Wednesday afternoon at the Church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill. After a moment of prayer, there will be a penitential procession to the Basilica of St. Sabina, one of the oldest churches in the Italian capital.
Cardinals, bishops, members of the Roman Curia, as well as a group of the faithful, will participate in the procession.
Also in attendance will be the Benedictine Monks of St. Anselm and the Dominican Fathers of St. Sabina.
That evening, the Holy Father will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of St. Sabina, which was built in the fifth century over the remains of the Roman martyr.
Santa Fe, NM, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of New Mexico have voiced opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would create domestic partnerships for opposite- and same-sex couples, saying it would undermine the “true nature” of marriage and would serve as a foundation for the implementation of same-sex “marriage.”
Last week the bill passed the Senate Judiciary and Senate Public Affairs Committee. It needed to pass the Senate Finance Committee before heading for a full vote, KFOXTV.com reports.
In a January statement, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB) said they cannot support the proposal because of “ethical concerns.” They said the language could serve as a “stepping stone” for a state court’s future approval of same-sex marriage.
Citing Jesus’ words about how a man and woman become “one flesh,” they emphasized the unique nature of marriage as a “permanent bond” between man and woman that is “naturally ordered” towards authentic union and new life.
They also voiced concerns that the bill would lead to the teaching of homosexuality in public schools and would affect religious freedom.
The bishops’ statement made clear they oppose any unjust discrimination and “emphatically” condemn hate crimes directed at anyone, including those of homosexual orientation.
Catholic News Agency contacted the NMCCB for further comment but did not receive a response by publication time.
Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father will be making his annual visit to the Roman Major Seminary on Friday. He will join the seminarians and their rector in celebration on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Trust, patroness of the seminary.
At six on Friday afternoon, Pope Benedict will pay a visit to the Roman Major Seminary, where he will be met by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Agostino Vallini and the seminary's rector, Msgr. Giovanni Tani.
While there, the Holy Father will lead a group of seminarians from the Major Seminary, two other seminaries and two colleges in scriptural readings. He will stay with them afterward for dinner, before returning to the Vatican.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, Msgr. Tani said that this year marks the first time that all of the seminarians from the other seminaries and colleges of the Diocese of Rome will be attending the celebration.
The rector added that the Feast of Our Lady of Trust is the "biggest and most beautiful" feast of the year for them. This feast, he continued, "calls us back to the fundamental signs of spirituality that are formed inside the Roman Seminary."
"In the course of the years of formation, the students learn to understand what trust means: it is really faith, but it is a faith of abandonment, a faith of openness, of confidence through Mary by living with the Lord."
The Roman Major Seminary is located on the opposite side of Rome from the Vatican, and is on the premises of the basilica of St. John Lateran, the official seat of the Bishop of Rome.
Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - An Ordinary Public Consistory to vote on the pending causes of canonization will take place this month at the Vatican. Six candidates will be considered for official recognition of sainthood, including Australia's Blessed Mary MacKillop.
On Friday, the Holy See's Press Office released a communique in which it was announced that the meeting of cardinals will be held in the Consistory Room of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on Feb. 19.
Among the six candidates being considered for approval are Blessed Stanislaw Soltys, a 15th century Polish priest of the Canons Regular of the Lateran; Blessed Andre Bessette, a Canadian religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross; and Blessed Mary MacKillop, the Australian foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
The remaining three candidates include two other founders of female religious congregations and a nun from the Order of St. Clare.
If the candidates are approved after a final review of their cases, the Pope will announce the official dates for their canonizations.
Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - On Thursday evening five thousand people with illnesses, supported by volunteers, family and friends, processed the half-mile from Castel Sant'Angelo, on the banks of Rome's Tiber River, to St. Peter's Square for the World Day of the Sick. The group was accompanied by the relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous, and was met at the end by the Holy Father himself.
The thousands of pilgrims carried candles and sang the Ave Maria of Lourdes as they made their way up the "Via della Conciliazione" to receive the Apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square.
The throng, carrying with them the relics of St. Bernadette, brought the "atmosphere and sense of devotion that are breathed each day in the French sanctuary" to the Holy See, reported Vatican Radio.
In his blessing, the Holy Father welcomed the group emphatically, saying, "Dear friends! Thank you for your prayer, thanks for your love for the sick, for our Lord!"
"With all my heart I impart on you the Apostolic blessing!"
The procession, which was followed by a fireworks display, marked the conclusion of the Vatican's celebration of the 18th annual World Day for the Sick. Mass had been celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI for the occasion and the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes earlier on Thursday.
Vatican City, Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) -
"The blossoming of priestly and religious vocations depends in good part on the moral and religious health of the Christian family," the Holy Father told Romanian and Moldovan bishops on Friday, as urged them to respond to the challenges being faced by the family in their countries.
The bishops met with Pope Benedict XVI as part of their "ad Limina” visit to the Holy See.
Addressing the bishops on the penultimate day of their visit, Benedict XVI placed a special emphasis on the importance of good relations between bishops and the priests that work with them as "first and precious collaborators."
He exhorted the bishops to be "true fathers" to their priests and to guard the “communion between you and with them in a climate of affection, attention and respectful and fraternal dialogue." Additionally, the Pope emphasized the need for the bishops to look after their priests' “spiritual and material conditions and to always keep them up-to-date in theological and pastoral matters.”
Vocations to the priesthood and religious life were also on the Holy Father's radar as he urged the bishops to promote vocations and ensure that candidates for the priesthood and religious life receive proper human, spiritual and intellectual formation. The solid formation of consecrated women was also raised by the Pope.
"The blossoming of priestly and religious vocations depends in good part on the moral and religious health of the Christian family," stated Pope Benedict. "Unfortunately, in our time there are many dangers to the familiar institution in a secularized and disoriented society."
Pointing out the strength of Catholic families in the region in being faithful to the Gospel "during the time of trial," Benedict XVI said that they continue to be tested by the "scourges of abortion, corruption, alcoholism and drugs, and also birth control through methods against the dignity of the human person."
As a remedy, the Holy Father recommended the promotion of parish initiatives for proper preparation of engaged couples for their married and family lives and a better organized youth ministry. But "most of all," he highlighted, "what is needed is a decided commitment to favor the presence of Christian values in society... ."
Pope Benedict XVI also underscored the importance of the "witness of fraternity" between the Catholic and Orthodox communities in the countries, especially concerning the defense of "the Christian roots of Europe and Christian values."
A constructive dialogue between the Catholics and Orthodox, the Holy Father added, will not fail to increase "unity and harmony, not only for your countries, but also for all of Europe."
Members of the Roman Catholic bishops' conference of Romania have been in Rome since Monday and will conclude their "ad Limina" visit on Saturday. They are led by the president of bishops' conference, Archbishop of Bucharest Ioan Robu.
San Jose, Calif., Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) -
Catholics in Costa Rica continue to express disgust following the actions of Deborah Formal, the girlfriend of presidential candidate Otto Guevara. Last Sunday, Formal broke off a piece of the Eucharist and placed it in her boyfriend's pocket.
The Costa Rican media has continued to air footage of the Mass which shows Formal receiving Communion, bringing a piece of it back to her seat, and giving it to Guevara.
Being divorced, Guevara did not present himself for Communion.
The video shows that as she approached the archbishop to receive Communion, the two briefly exchanged words. Formal said later she had requested permission from the archbishop to “share the blessing” of Communion with Guevara. She said she misunderstood the archbishop and thought that he had given her permission.
“It was never my intention to disrespect the Catholic Church,” she said.
Formal is seen receiving Communion in the hand, consuming a portion and carrying what was left back to her pew, where she leaned over and put it into Guevara’s shirt pocket.
“I tried to do something that would allow Otto to carry a part of God in his heart,” Formal explained.
After priests were notified of Formal's actions, they asked the presidential candidate to return the consecrated host. He returned it and it was immediately consumed by one of the concelebrating priests.
Numerous Catholics interviewed by the media expressed outrage over the actions of Formal, saying she displayed not only ignorance in describing the consecrated host as a “blessing” instead of as the Real Presence of Christ, but also complete disrespect for Communion and for the Eucharistic Host.
Archbishop Hugo Barrantes of San Jose called her actions “inappropriate and disrespectful,” although not sacrilegious.
Providence, R.I., Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s decision not to run for re-election creates an opportunity for a pro-life candidate to replace him, a Rhode Island pro-life group said on Friday. Kennedy had sparked a dispute with his bishop after he strongly criticized the Catholic bishops’ opposition to health care legislation that funded abortion.
Rep. Kennedy, a Democrat and son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), announced his decision in a video posted to YouTube on Thursday. He said his life is taking “a new direction.” He has held his seat for eight Congressional terms.
CNA spoke about Rep. Kennedy’s decision in a Friday interview with Barth E. Bracy, Executive Director of Rhode Island Right to Life (RIRTL).
“Our hope and goal politically is to have a pro-life Congressman in Rhode Island’s First Congressional district,” Bracy explained.
“Patrick Kennedy is certainly not a pro-life congressman… So we’re delighted at the opportunity his resignation presents,” he commented. “We’re happy. We’d be happier if he would have just become pro-life.”
Polls released last Friday showed Kennedy to be “incredibly vulnerable,” he reported, adding that RIRTL has seen an opportunity in the district “for some time.”
“We had been working on identifying pro-life candidates to run against him, not only on the Republican side but also, just as importantly, on the Democratic side to run in the primary.”
“In some ways this is a great blessing, in others it presents greater challenges,” he commented, explaining that the Congressman’s exit may assist the rise of a “more formidable” pro-abortion candidate.
Patrick Kennedy is no stranger to the contentious issue of abortion. Last year controversy erupted when he accused the Catholic Church of fanning “the flames of dissent and discord” in debate over the proposed health care reform. The Catholic bishops had declared that they would oppose the proposed legislation unless it explicitly prohibited funding of abortion.
Bishop of Providence Thomas J. Tobin asked the politician to apologize for his “irresponsible” comments and said he was a “disappointment to the Catholic Church.”
The dispute continued for several weeks, with Rep. Kennedy revealing that the bishop had previously asked him to refrain from receiving Holy Communion because of his support for abortion.
After hearing of Kennedy's latest announcement, Bishop Tobin told the Boston Herald on Friday:
“I am sure that the Congressman’s decision was a difficult one to make given his very long and strong commitment to public service… I wish him well and pray that God will bless all of his future endeavors.”
Asked about the dispute between Bishop Tobin and Rep. Kennedy, RIRTL’s Bracy told CNA he was “shocked” and “couldn’t believe” Kennedy’s initial comments.
In Bracy’s view, Kennedy’s attack against the Catholic bishops was “totally without basis” and “completely uninformed.”
“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been talking about heath care reform and universal coverage since Patrick’s father was in diapers. Indeed that’s hyperbole, but it’s pretty darn close.”
He thought Bishop Tobin’s response had been “very appropriate” and said it pointed out “the errors in Patrick Kennedy’s thinking.”
Bracy said RIRTL stood behind Bishop Tobin “completely.”
“He did a fantastic job in handling Congressman Kennedy with restraint, with perhaps ‘tough love’.”
He also noted Bishop Tobin’s personal letter to Kennedy before their public dispute.
“Bishop Tobin has fulfilled his role as a shepherd in a fantastic way. He apparently has contacted these legislators to call them back to their faith and to question their political activities that are not in harmony with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life. But he has not done that in a public, political way.
“It was Kennedy who made that conversation and dialogue public,” Bracy noted.
According to Fox News, Kennedy’s departure will mean that for the first time since 1962 a member of the Kennedy family will not be serving in Congress.
Washington D.C., Feb 12, 2010 (CNA) - A pro-abortion group’s 2009 report giving a “D” grade to the United States on abortion suggests pro-life progress at the state level. The report’s description of a murdered late-term abortionist as a hero may even be a sign of desperation, pro-life leaders say.
NARAL Pro-Choice America’s report, “Who Decides: The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States,” laments the decreasing number of abortion providers in the country. It claims various states enacted 29 pro-life laws but only passed 21 “pro-choice” bills.
According to the report’s analysis of governors and state legislators, states are pro-life by a 2 to 1 margin.
Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told CNSNews.com that the report shows the failure of efforts to make abortion acceptable.
"They can't take the stigma out of abortion, even if the legality of it is protected," Fr. Pavone commented. "As a result, they face a shortage of practitioners."
The news about individual states’ actions and sympathies also shows the importance of fighting abortion at the state level, he added.
NARAL President Nancy Keenan in her introduction to the report blamed “restrictive laws and outbreaks of violence” for the diminishing numbers of abortion providers. She characterized pro-lifers as “opponents of freedom” who are trying to “construct roadblocks on our path to progress.”
She cited the debate over health care legislation as an example.
Keenan lauded President Barack Obama for his abortion policies and personnel decisions, specifically mentioning Dawn Johnsen. Johnsen, a former NARAL legal counsel, is nominated to become the head of the influential Office of Legal Counsel but she has yet to be confirmed.
She also praised the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Within days of taking office, she said, President Obama “began to undo eight years of damage” to NARAL’s cause.
"He repealed the global gag rule, fixed the birth-control price crisis, re-funded the U.N. population program, and took steps to repeal Bush's eleventh-hour attack on reproductive rights, the Federal Refusal Rule,” Keenan continued.
The “refusal rule” proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would have clarified the rights of health care providers to decline to participate in services to which they object in conscience. The rule would have helped protect individuals and institutions in the medical field who object to abortion.
Federal restrictions on partial-birth abortion and the Stupak-Pitts Amendment against federal abortion funding in health care were also criticized in the report.
NARAL praised California for passing a law that would permit some abortions even if Roe v. Wade were overturned. The group also praised New Mexico’s state funding of family planning for low-income women, including “emergency contraception.”
The abortion advocacy group criticized states that barred state funding of abortions or required parental and spousal notification for abortions. It also objected to Virginia’s provision of a “Choose Life” license plates for car owners.
NARAL’s report was dedicated to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), crediting him with writing a 1994 law restricting pro-life activists’ access to abortion clinics.
A second dedication of the report was made NARAL to the deceased late-term abortionist George Tiller, who was murdered at his church last year by a mentally disturbed man who opposed Tiller’s practice.
NARAL claimed that Tiller “compassionately and heroically served women from all across the country in order to ensure their right to reproductive-health services.” The report praised him for “kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect.”
Before his death Tiller was acquitted on charges of performing illegal abortions. His abortion practice was under investigation by Kansas authorities at the time of his death.
Fr. Pavone said the dedication was consistent with NARAL’s efforts to portray abortionists as “heroes” while depicting pro-life activists as “dangerous or fanatical.”
"With the pro-abortion movement continuing to decline in this country, they are becoming desperate for heroes," Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, told CNSNews.com. "Any organization that advocates for women's health would be opposed to abortions and all its consequences."