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Archive of February 18, 2010

USCCB launches Spanish-language marriage support website

Washington D.C., Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - A Spanish-language version of a marriage support website has been launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The site aims to help couples discover the “great richness” of Christian marriage and to strengthen spousal love within the community of faith.

The site, PorTuMatrimonio.org, is a version of the English-language marriage site ForYourMarriage.org, but not a direct translation.

Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, director for Hispanic Affairs of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church and coordinator of the project, explained that the site responds to the bishops’ current priorities on marriage and cultural diversity with special emphasis on Hispanics.

“PorTuMatrimonio.org is a space to inspire, help and urge Spanish-speaking couples to live more fully their marriage relationship,” Aguilera-Titus commented. “The idea is to help them be happy couples, committed to their vocation.”

The site provides advice, testimonials and other resources to help couples. It provides information about common challenges for couples and how to overcome them in healthy and respectful ways.

It also presents reflection questions for couples preparing for marriage. The site addresses questions such as whether a couple is ready to make the important decision to marry, whether a spouse is the “ideal person” for oneself, and how a couple can nourish their married life in mind, body and spirit.

Theologian Dora Tobar, a well-known Latina speaker and member of the national support team for PorTuMatrimonio.org, said that the effort creates a space where Hispanics can “find light, answers and good advice to create and sustain stable and happy marriages.”

Tobar said the site gives all Spanish-speaking people access to “right and concrete information” and answers to their questions about married life.

The national support team for the website includes many experts in marriage and family life ministries with Latinos. The effort was funded by the Catholic Communication Campaign.

“Strong, healthy families are the result of strong and healthy marriages,” Aguilera-Titus said. “We invite married couples as well as those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Marriage to discover with us all they can do for their marriage.”

The website’s address is http://www.PorTuMatrimonio.org

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Australian Anglo-Catholic group votes to explore conversion to Catholicism

Melbourne, Australia, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - By a unanimous vote, the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith Australia has established a working party guided by a Catholic bishop to explore how its followers can convert to Roman Catholicism.

The group, which also has members in Britain and the United States, is believed to be the first within the Anglican Church to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to create an Anglican Ordinariate, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The Ordinariate, a form of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, will enable Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining parts of their spiritual heritage.

Bishop David Robarts, chairman of Forward in Faith Australia (FIFA), said members felt excluded by the Anglican Church in Australia, which had not provided them with a bishop to represent their views on homosexuality and women bishops.

"In Australia we have tried for a quarter of a decade to get some form of episcopal oversight but we have failed," he told the Daily Telegraph. "We're not really wanted any more, our conscience is not being respected."

Bishop Robarts, 77, said it had become clear Anglicans who did not believe in same-sex partnerships or the consecration of women as bishops had no place in the “broader Anglican spectrum.”

“We're not shifting the furniture, we're simply saying that we have been faithful Anglicans upholding what Anglicans have always believed,” he continued. “We're not wanting to change anything, but we have been marginalized by people who want to introduce innovations.”

“We need to have bishops that believe what we believe," he added, saying that converting to Rome would allow the group to retain their Anglican culture without sacrificing their beliefs.

The unanimous vote to investigate the establishment of an Ordinariate was held last Saturday at a Special General Meeting of FIFA at All Saints Kooyong in Melbourne.

The meeting issued a statement saying it received with “great gratitude” Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution proposing the Ordinariate. It also expressed commitment to care and support those who feel unable to be received into the Ordinariate.

The FIFA meeting “warmly welcomed” the appointment of Bishop Peter Elliott as a delegate of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. It also established a working group called Friends of the Australian Ordinariate, inviting FIFA members and other interested persons to provide their names and addresses to the group.

Bishop Robarts said his group was the first Forward In Faith branch to embrace Pope Benedict’s offer so strongly. Other Anglo-Catholics are waiting to see if the Anglican Church will allow them significant concessions on the introduction of women bishops, such as a male-only diocese.

The Traditional Anglican Communion, which has already broken away from the Anglican Communion, is another group to have declared that its members will become Catholic under the Apostolic Constitution.

In other Anglo-Catholic news, Telegraph reporter Damian Thompson reported on Feb. 17 that the former assistant Anglican Bishop of Newcastle Paul Richardson was received into full communion with the Church in January. He served as an Anglican bishop in Papua New Guinea and was diocesan bishop of Wangaratta in Australia.

Richardson said he was not planning to join the Ordinariate but has not ruled out ordination as a Catholic priest.

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Charges of Church involvement in Orissa violence ‘baseless,’ Indian archbishop says

Orissa, India, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - Churchmen and other leaders in India’s Orissa state have rejected a Hindu radical group’s claim that the Church perpetrated violence there. The local archbishop said the group spreads “baseless and misleading” information.

A series of violent anti-Christian actions broke out in Orissa in August 2008 after the killing of elderly Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati. Although Maoists claimed responsibility, Hindu radicals blamed Christians.

Thousands of Christians were injured in the violence and tens of thousands fled their homes out of fear.

Ashok Singhal, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has said that Saraswati tried to stop conversions, charging that missionaries killed him with the help of the Maoists.

“The Bible and rifle now go together,” he claimed, according to UCA News.

However, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik disclosed in the state assembly that the VHP itself and other radical groups were involved in the violence against Christians.

Singhal, who is based in New Delhi, denied VHP involvement in the riots and criticized Patnaik for allowing a European Union delegation to visit Orissa early in February. The delegation’s closed-door meeting with church leaders compromised the country’s security, he charged.

He also claimed that “foreign forces” have engaged in religious conversion in Orissa by luring illiterate tribal people.

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, head of the Catholic Church in Orissa, dismissed Singhal’s charges as Hindu radicals’ “customary” attempts to start controversy over conversion and the Church’s foreign funding and foreign connections.

“This only shows their poverty of issues,” he told UCA News on Tuesday. According to the archbishop, Singhal’s reaction was disproportionate because he mistook the European Union as a Christian organization.

“The European Union is a non-religious organization that has regular contacts with the Indian government for more than two decades but with no religious group in India,” he commented.

Archbishop Cheenath accused Hindu radicals of pursuing a divide-and-rule strategy by disseminating “baseless and misleading” information.

Social activist Dhirendra Panda also dismissed Singhal’s allegations, calling them “irrational and illogical.”

Damodar Rout, state minister of Agriculture and Cooperation, told the media to ignore the VHP, saying its only interest is to create disturbances in Orissa.

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Catholic man charged with violating court order by taking daughter to church

Chicago, Ill., Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - A Catholic man could face prison after violating a temporary court order that forbade him from taking his toddler to Mass. Joesph Reyes of Chicago is in the midst of a bitter divorce suit with his estranged wife, Rebecca Shapiro, who is Jewish.

Shapiro was awarded custody of their three year old girl when the couple split and has raised the child in the Jewish faith. Reyes pleaded “not guilty” in a hearing on Tuesday.

The arraignment comes after Reyes had previously received a 30-day restraining order forbidding him from “exposing his daughter to any other religion that the Jewish religion” after he had his daughter baptized a Catholic and sent pictures of the occasion to his soon to be ex-wife.

Rebecca Shapiro responded to the photos by filing for a temporary restraining order, which was granted. According to Shapiro's lawyer, Rebecca was shocked by Reyes' actions and believes they were motivated out of spite.

“Number one, it wasn't just a religious thing per se, it was the idea that he would suddenly, out of nowhere without any discussion … have the girl baptized,” attorney Stephen Lake said to ABC News. “She looked at it as basically an assault on her little girl.”

“Going to church, I don't think I violated the order,” Reyes told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. “In terms of Judaism, based on the information I was given, Catholicism falls right under the umbrella of Judaism,” he offered.

Shapiro's lawyer also claimed that Reyes had not been a particularly devout Catholic during their marriage. In fact, Reyes is reported to have converted to Judaism upon marrying Rebecca in 2004, yet has since claimed that he did so under duress.

According to Reyes, conversion to Judaism was essential for his parents in law to “accept” him.

In an interview on Tuesday with “Good Morning America,” Reyes said that his daughter means “everything” to him and said that he does not want his daughter to “grow up into a world where her fundamental rights are threatened or weakened by court decisions.” When asked about the assertion that he is simply being antagonistic towards his estranged wife, Reyes said, “No, that's not my motivation at all. For one, I'm not really that angry with Rebecca. I think that some of her decisions are questionable, some of her motivations are questionable, but my motivations are on my daughter.”

Reyes faced further questioning in the interview, however, when it was brought up that he intentionally contacted the media before taking his daughter to Mass. He responded by saying that “this situation merits the attention” and that “at some point, when you do as much has been done to me in this situation, there is a straw that breaks the camel's back. I've made every concession that I possibly can make for Rebecca, and I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere and this is where I choose to draw it.”

“My faith means a lot to me,” Reyes insisted.

The next court date is March 3 and Reyes is expected to file a motion that would dismiss all criminal charges against him. If he is found guilty of indirect criminal contempt, Reyes could face a up to six months in jail.

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Mississippi collects over 130,000 signatures for Personhood Amendment

Jackson, Miss., Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - A grass roots organization in Mississippi has amassed over 130,000 signatures in order to place a Personhood amendment on an upcoming ballot in the state. The amount of signatures well surpasses the minimum requirement of 89,285 needed for a ballot initiative.

Personhood Mississippi, a non-profit group that seeks to “protect all life, regardless of age, health, function, physical or mental dependency, or method of reproduction,” reported that this latest ballot initiative broke the state record and garnered more signatures than any other initiative in Mississippi's history. Volunteers have been collecting signatures since February 11, 2009.

“Despite the superfluous restrictions set before us, the people of Mississippi have spoken. With God’s blessing we have made history and exceeded the signature requirement by tens of thousands,” said Les Riley, sponsor of the Mississippi Personhood Amendment in a statement Wednesday.

“In the next few days, we fully expect Secretary of State Dilbert Hosemann to approve our amendment, as we have exceeded all requirements by the State of Mississippi,” Riley added.

Personhood Mississippi reported that Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant helped turn in boxed of completed petitions during yesterday's press conference. 

Over 2,000 volunteers and the use of more than 1,000 churches throughout the year made the signature collecting possible. The group also reported that once each district’s signatures are verified, the amendment will be placed on the November 2011 ballot.

“The overwhelming number of signatures proves that Mississippi citizens want to end baby-murder,” asserted Cal Zastrow, co-founder of Personhood USA. “God raised up the volunteers to complete this task, and Personhood USA is thrilled to be a part of that task force. Now we are looking forward to victory at the ballot box!”

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'Priestly vocation' to be focus of Vatican retreat

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - On Sunday, February 21, the annual spiritual exercises for Pope Benedict and Roman Curia will begin at the Vatican's Redemptoris Mater chapel.  The retreat's meditations will be given by Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo on the theme, “Lessons from God and The Church on the Priestly Vocation.”

A total of 17 meditations will be given over the week-long retreat, which will end on Saturday, February 27.

Each day will have its own particular emphasis:  Monday will be a day of prayer for priestly vocations, Tuesday a day of prayer for missionaries, and Wednesday, a day of penance.   Thursday will focus on Christ, Friday on Mary, and Saturday on the call of the first “deacons.”

The Holy Father's private and general audiences will not be held during the week of spiritual exercises.

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We must follow Jesus into the Lenten desert, Pope says on Ash Wednesday

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) -

In his homily at the Basilica of Saint Sabina on Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father spoke about returning to the communion with God that was lost when Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden. To return, he said, we need to "cross the desert, the test of faith."

After a procession from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Saint Sabina, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the story of Jesus' time in the desert. The Holy Father described the 40 days of silence and fasting as a time when Jesus "abandoned himself completely to the Father and his loving design," exposing himself to "enemy assaults" without any weapon besides "boundless trust in the omnipotent love of the Father."

"All this the Lord Jesus did for us," explained Benedict XVI. "He did it to save us, and at the same time to show us the way to follow him."

He expounded on this gift of salvation, saying it requires our assent demonstrated by our will to live like Jesus and follow in his footsteps. So, the Pope said, "following Jesus in the 'Lenten desert' is then a necessary condition to participating in his Easter..."

In order to return to the paradise which symbolizes communion with God and eternal life, from which Adam was banished, "we need to cross the desert, the test of faith," the Holy Father stressed, and "not alone, but with Jesus!

"He, as always, preceded us and won the battle against the spirit of evil.

"This is the meaning of Lent," said the Pope, "the liturgical time that each year invites us to renew the choice to follow Christ on the path of humility to participate in his victory over sin and death."

"In this perspective," he added, "we also understand the penitential sign of the Ashes that are imposed on the forehead of all those who begin the Lenten itinerary with good will."

This gesture, he explained, is one of humility that means "I recognize myself for what I am, a fragile creature, made of earth and destined to earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to Him.

"Dust, yes, but loved...able to recognize His voice and respond to Him; free and also capable of disobeying Him, giving in to the temptation of pride and self-sufficience."

These sins, pointed out the Pope, are a "mortal disease" which is "quick to enter and pollute the blessed earth that is the human being."

Building off of the Responsorial Psalm, Pope Benedict reflected more deeply on the meaning on iniquity. "The first act of justice is to recognize our own iniquity," rooted in our hearts, and then to "insist on the necessity of practicing our own 'justice' - alms, prayer and fasting - not before men but only to the eyes of God," he taught.

Indeed, "true recompense" will come not from the recognition of our fellow men, but in the relationship with God that is forged as a result and its accompanying grace, he explained.

Pope Benedict concluded his Ash Wednesday homily, saying that "even in our days humanity needs to hope in a more just world, and believe that it is possible, despite the disappointments that come from daily experiences.

"Beginning a new Lent, a new path of spiritual renewal, the Church indicates the personal and community conversion, the only non-illusory way to form a more just society, where all can have what is necessary to live according to human dignity."

The Pope implored, "Let us sincerely confess our sins, repent to God with all our hearts and let ourselves be reconciled with Him."

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Benedict XVI calls priests to protect communion between God and man

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) -

Pope Benedict hosted priests from the Diocese of Rome in the Vatican's Benediction Hall on Thursday morning for a "lectio divina" during their traditional Lenten audience. The Pope used his reflection on St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews to encourage priests to protect communion between God and man, especially in areas under attack by society.

Referring to the Letter to the Hebrews, the Holy Father shed light on the nature of the priest. "The author of the Letter," he said, "understood that in Christ two premises are united: (that) Christ is the true King, the Son of God ... but also (that) the true priest... finds in Christ the key, his fulfilment."

And in him, said the Holy Father, the priesthood finds its "purity and its profound truth."

The mission of the priest, he continued, is to be a "mediator, a bridge that links and so carries man to God, to his redemption, his true light, his true life." In order to maintain this communion between humanity and divinity, priests must partake in daily, constant prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist.

"We must always return again to the sacrament, return to this gift in which God gives me much more than I could ever give ... a priest must be truly a man of God, must know God deeply and know him in communion with Christ," said Pope Benedict.

"We must live this communion," he told his fellow priests.

In doing so, added the Bishop of Rome, the priest must also be willing to stand up to those elements that hurt communion with God, specifically, the tendency of some to pass off lying and stealing today, merely saying, "It's human."

"But, this is not the true 'being human,'" the Pope insisted.

"Human is being generous, human is being good, human is being a man of justice" and, he underscored, sin never leads to solidarity but has the opposite effect.

The Holy Father also mentioned obedience as "a word that we don't like in our times" because it gives the impression of "alienation" or a "servile manner." He pointed out that we tend to seek out "freedom" instead of "obedience."

"But," he reflected, "considering this problem closely, we see that these two things go together."

"The will of God is not a tyrannical will, but it's exactly the place we find our true identity," he said.

"Let's really pray to the Lord, so that he may help us to see intimately that this is freedom and so enter joyfully into this obedience and pick up the human being and carry him - with our example, with our humility, with our prayer, with our pastoral action - into communion with God."

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Child trafficking ring unmasked in Pakistan after murder of Christian girl

Rome, Italy, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - Investigators looking into the case 12-year old Shazia Masih, a Christian girl who was tortured, raped and killed on January 22 in Lahore, Pakistan, say they have uncovered a “a sinister twist of the sale, trafficking, and slavery of children” that has overtaken the country.

According to Fides news agency, Shazia was taken from her home by a man named Amanat, who deceived her mother by promising a decent life for her daughter with a rich family in Lahore, where she would be a “domestic employee” of Muslim attorney Chaundry Muhammed Naeem who, after raping and killing her, tried to bribe her family into silence with the equivalent of $250.

“The sad case of Shazia is showing investigators the ramifications and dynamics that lead back to a real organized crime, based on the trafficking of children.”  The children are “taken from their poor families, often Christian, with the illusion that they will find dignified work among middle-class families. They are then sold to these families, becoming ‘little slaves’ at the mercy of their employers, losing their freedom, and living practically under arrest,” Fides reported.

Investigators said the case of Shazia "is particularly thorny because it surrounds a man of law, a person who should pursue justice, and instead has become complicit in criminal actions,"

Both Naeem and Amanat have been detained by police.

“Many children are sold as slaves for work or prostitution in Pakistan,” Fides reported. “According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about 12 million Pakistani children are forced into child labor, often in conditions of real slavery, especially in Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province. This phenomenon, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says, is unfortunately on the rise.”

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Spanish pro-lifers call upcoming March for Life 'more necessary than ever'

Madrid, Spain, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - The spokesperson for Right to Life in Spain, Gador Joya, is calling all Spaniards to join in the country's March for life on March 7.  She noted that this protest is “more necessary than ever” as Spain's new abortion law will be debated by the Spanish Congress in the upcoming days.

The Spanish Senate’s Committee on Equality recently voted 13-12 against a motion to table the abortion bill.  The bill will most likely be debated in the Senate on February 24.

Joya said the close vote shows that the Senate is divided and that the March 7 March for Life “is more necessary and timely than ever, as it will take place right before the final vote in the House of Representatives.”

Joya then criticized the government for seeking to impose an unjust law without heeding “the social outcry, and ignoring scientific, legal and moral rationale.”

She said pro-life groups would use every means possible to make their voices heard and called for the measure, which is dividing Spain, to be withdrawn or rejected.

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Chinese underground Bishop Wang remembered for legacy of faith

Rome, Italy, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - On February 2, at the age of 88, Bishop Raymond Wang Chonglin died after 60 years of priesthood. He leaves behind an enormous legacy as the "truly good shepherd" of the Diocese of Zhaoxian, China, where the Christian communities he established remain.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) released a biographical sketch of Bishop Wang on Thursday. He was described as "a simple man, intelligent and virtuous ... and of sincere loyalty to the Church."

Out of his 60 years as a priest, 20 were spent in detention. Several years after his release, he was made bishop of Zhaoxian, where for most of the last 27 years he oversaw the care of the Catholic community as well as the construction of a seminary and convent. He also encouraged care for orphans and religious instruction.

LOR reported that for those who knew him, Bishop Wang was described as "inexhaustible in the work of evangelization, without letting himself be discouraged by the difficulty."

He was an active person, very dedicated to his ministry, what the Vatican newspaper called a "truly good shepherd for his sheep." Bishop Wang was known to make the rounds of his diocese on a bicycle to visit communities that lacked priests, returning to lead the diocese in his 80's after the bishop that had replaced him fell ill.

The history of the diocese, LOR related, "was written in great part by Bishop Wang" and the communities and projects brought about through his intervention can be seen throughout the province.

Fr. Simone Gao Bojin remembered that "from the time we were little, we were educated by his testimony of total trust in God; Bishop Wang urged all of the faithful to evangelize, living a very simple and sober life."

He was a man of great faith who "incessantly" invited the faithful to provide witness to God's love and expressed his love for the Pope and Church doctrine, while also creating that love in others.

LOR reported that "up to the final moment of his life he offered himself for others, working and suffering greatly, but always with joy."

His death saw many people from surrounding villages pour out their condolences and mourning in the orphanage that he founded. Twenty thousand people were estimated to have attended his funeral on Feb. 8.

A priest from his diocese remembered him, saying, "Bishop Raymond, even though you have left us, we will never forget your unselfish faith, your free devotion, the simple and hard working life, noble moral character and your capacity to look to the future full of Christian hope.

"The great Chinese teacher Laozi Dao wrote, 'Saints love all people with all their heart,' this is exactly your spirit, Bishop Wang, that throughout your life you loved with the heart of Christ."

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Italian bishop defends Cardinal Bertone from newspaper attack

Rome, Italy, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - Il Foglio, a politically influential Italian newspaper, published an article criticizing Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone last Saturday. Despite his "Salesian exuberance" and friendly demeanor, the paper claimed he has "little or no strategy" and a lack of “diplomatic pedigree." The article drew a rebuke from an Italian bishop, who wrote that Pope Benedict believes that the cardinal has the correct skill set.

Referring to him as "Bertone L'Allegrone” (Bertone the big happy guy), Il Foglio took a poke at him, saying that it's difficult to be happy seeing that the second part of his motto of "Fidem custodire, concordiam servare” (To guard faith, to serve peace), recently "seems evermore unfulfilled."

The paper's criticisms cover a number of situations that have arisen in the cardinal's just over three years as the Pope's "right hand."

During this time span, Il Foglio says his rapport with the Italian bishops conference has been characterized by elements of "friction" and that he has butted heads with some of the largest episcopal conferences in the world.

The ire of the U.S. bishops was earned after an editorial published in L'Osservatore Romano under his watch gave the "pro-life politics" of President Obama a positive evaluation the Italian daily argued. Cardinal Bertone was also faulted for an article in the Vatican newspaper that angered the Brazilian bishops because it appeared to condone the actions of Brazilian doctors who directly aborted the twins of a 9-year old girl in that country.

They also attributed various "misadventures" to the Secretary of State, including poor media management in handling the Pope's revocation of the St. Pius X Society bishops' excommunication and the successive problems with Bishop Williamson. All of this could be traced to "a lack of capacity and diplomatic pedigree," since Cardinal Bertone came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and not from within the Holy See's diplomatic corps, the paper asserted.

However, the Vatican expert Sandro Magister told Il Foglio that Cardinal Bertone was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the position because of his "incontrovertible practical capacity that makes him act with speed, passion and devotion," which the Holy Father witnessed first-hand when they worked together in the CDF.

Magister added, "no one can put his absolute devotion to this Pope in question."

The secular newspaper also quoted Massimo Introvigne, the vice president of Catholic Alliance and a sociologist, who said the qualities that make Cardinal Bertone a good Salesian also lead him to 'irregular behaviors.'" These “behaviors” can be traced to the founder of the Salesians, St. John Bosco, who said that members of the order "should be friendly, have a captivating style and should be disposed to mixing."

"This attitude, said Introvigne, is characterized by discretion, reserve and also secrecy, could create a contrast of style with the predecessors of Bertone.” “But," he added, "the positive side is his sincere interest for mass and popular communications."

Upon reading Il Foglio's piece, a collaborator of the cardinal's, Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alexandria, Italy, wrote a letter to the Italian Bishops' Conference-sponsored newspaper, L'Avvenire, in which he rejected the "allegrone" title and expressed "reproach" for the description of the Secretary of State as "lacking diplomatic pedigree and strategy."

He wrote that while his words might be read as influenced by his close relationship with Cardinal Bertone, "more than every other opinion" that of Pope Benedict who "chose him not by indirect recommendations, but by 'tested' direct knowledge" should be recognized.

He continued, saying that "if an intelligent and prudent person such as this Pontiff chose Cardinal Bertone as his Secretary of State, after having had him as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the only possible explanation is that he regards him as suitable for this mission and his best collaborator."

"If Pope Ratzinger had wanted a person with 'diplomatic pedigree' as secretary of state," indicated the bishop, "he had no more than the hindrance of the choice and this means that the pastoral government of Benedict XVI wanted such a collaborator, possibly also to erase in the Church that 'filth' that, as a cardinal, Ratzinger knew and denounced."

"The fact that some can criticize Cardinal Bertone is completely legitimate (as long as the truth is respected), but one cannot ignore how much the Secretary of State has done to serve the Pope and that each attempt to separate one from the other is the fruit of a conspiracy theory devoid of facts (see the communique from the secretary of state from Feb. 9 approved by Benedict XVI, who ordered its publication)."

This letter was released by the Press Office of the Holy See denying Vatican involvement in the Boffo affair, in which the Cardinal Secretary of State has been accused of involvement by some media outlets.

Bishop Versaldi closed by expressing his wish to offer "a greater understanding of reality so that, as reads the communique, 'truth and justice are affirmed.'"

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Roman Missal workshops to prepare clergy and officials for revised liturgy

Washington D.C., Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - As the implementation of the revised Roman Missal approaches, a series of workshops will be offered around the United States to prepare priests and diocesan officials for the changes to the liturgy.

The latest version of the Roman Missal incorporates the most significant changes in the liturgy since 1974, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports.

The workshops will be held from April to November in various cities. They are sponsored by the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship and the Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.

Groups which helped plan the seminars include the National Organization for Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy and the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

Attendees at the seminars will study the historical and theological context of the new Missal and will study some of the new translations to deepen their understanding of them.

The seminars will highlight the role of the priest celebrant in both proclaiming and singing the new texts. Speakers will discuss the impact of changes on both priests and the laity and will suggest strategies for the local implementation of the Missal.

Workshops will be offered in Cincinnati; Richmond, Virginia; Phoenix; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kansas City, Missouri; Helena, Montana; St. Paul-Minneapolis; Denver; Orange, California; Louisville; Baltimore; Milwaukee; Trenton, New Jersey; San Francisco; Oklahoma City; Boston; Seattle; Alexandria, Louisiana; Albany, New York; Honolulu; San Antonio; and Orlando.

Primary staff for each seminar will be either Msgr. Anthony Sherman, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship, or Fr. Richard Hilgartner, associate director of the Divine Worship Secretariat. Both have advanced degrees in sacred theology and are members of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Catholic Academy of Liturgy.

Possible second speakers at each seminar are Brian Reynolds, Ed.D., chancellor and chief administrator of the Archdiocese of Louisville; Dolly Sokol, Ph.D., director of development of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe or Peter Zografos, D.Min., director of campus ministry and adjunct faculty of Our Lady of the Lake University, in San Antonio.

Other education efforts for the Roman Missal include a series of articles provided to diocesan media outlets. A Roman Missal Parish Implementation Guide will be published by USCCB Publishing after its approval by the Holy See.

More information on the seminars can be found at http://www.fdlc.org. Registration for the workshops, which is limited to priests and diocesan leaders, is at http://www.usccb.org/romanmissal.

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Bishops urge Mexico to conquer mediocrity and violence

Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - In light of the upcoming elections and the bicentennial celebration of Mexico’s independence, two of the country's bishops have released a statement encouraging the faithful to “build up” Mexico and leave behind mediocrity and violence.

In the text, Archbishop of Antequera, Oaxaca José Luis Chávez Botello and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar A. Campos, indicated that 2010 “is  a year of utmost importance” for Mexico due to the country's increase in poverty, violence and aggressive opposition groups that are “dividing” the country.

This situation, they noted, “urges us to bring everyone out of mediocrity and violence, and not to remain anchored where we are. The upcoming elections in July and the celebration of the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence are opportunities for reflection, to recognize our errors and to undertake consistent actions which will have a positive impact on the future of both Oaxaca and Mexico.”

“We all must become aware of the evils which harm us,” the bishops wrote.  “The current dehumanizing situations and social conflicts are symptomatic of fundamental necessities that are not being met. This requires emergency responses in order to heal and address these events. What we are living through right now is more than enough to reflect upon and to take note of the root causes which should be addressed with determination, responsibility and courage.”

By stating “it is imperative to recognize our errors” with courage, the bishops remarked that mistakes “have done great damage to our towns, to our country’s economy, and to the political, social and cultural spheres. They have also caused harm by introducing a lack of confidence, division and aggressiveness. The principle actors, up to the present moment, have not recognized their errors, nor have they asked for pardon before society. There is no future in this way of doing things.”

After noting the challenges that society faces in the task of building a better future, such as the current economic crisis and the low quality of education which is empty of fundamental values, the bishops encouraged that those running for office – and all in leadership roles – to put these grave situations at the center of their attention.

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Academy for Life members ask Pope to remove archbishop who has caused 'infinite problems'

Rome, Italy, Feb 18, 2010 (CNA) - (updated version)

In a letter released on Wednesday, five members of the Pontifical Academy for Life criticized the recent actions of their head, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, and suggested that he resign from his leadership of the academy. One signatory of the letter, Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer, told CNA that the academy president has caused “infinite problems.”

Archbishop Fisichella sparked controversy last March when he wrote an article for the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, appearing to defend doctors who performed an abortion on a nine-year-old rape victim pregnant with twins in Recife, Brazil.

As a result of the prelate's statements in the Vatican paper, news outlets in Latin America began to assume that the Catholic Church had changed its teaching on abortion, particularly 'therapeutic abortion' in certain circumstances. In the wake of the controversy, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a clarification in July of 2009, saying abortion “has not been and can never be” accepted as Catholic teaching.

Though this clarification temporarily eased the minds of some members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a recent assembly presided over by Archbishop Fisichella caused further concern.

One member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Christine de Vollmer, related the progression of events to CNA on Thursday.

Before the recent Pontifical assembly took place earlier this month, explained de Vollmer, “I was approached by CNS (Catholic News Service) and asked if we were going to ask for our President’s resignation. I answered that no, I felt that the issue had been taken care of by the CDF Clarification and that the issue of ‘therapeutic abortion,’ defended at that time by the OR article, had been corrected and settled clearly, in harmony with the Magisterium.”

“To our surprise and stupefaction, however,” de Vollmer said, “Archbishop Fisichella in his opening address attacked the large number of Members who had asked—him, and then in view of his refusal—the CDF for the Clarification. He referred to this action as 'an attack on him personally' as 'malice,' 'spite' and 'a desire to cause a situation of conflict.'”

“What was more grave, however,” de Vollmer noted, “is that he went on to say that his position in regard to the Recife case had been totally ‘vindicated’ by the CDF in its Clarification. He seemed to be referring to the first paragraph, which had attempted to ‘soften the blow’ and, we were told, had actually been doctored by himself, a member of CDF.”

“As this speech put our Academy once more in the position of seeming to approve the abortion of the twins in Recife, we felt that we had to make a clear statement,” de Vollmer said.

She further lamented, “Our President has caused infinite problems to the Academy, as our Members have all taken an oath to defend the Magisterium in all matters pertaining to human life. This solemn oath, taken before the Apostolic Nuncio in each of our countries, requires that we defend and preserve the teaching of the Gospel and the Holy Father in this matter wherever we find it threatened. In this case the threat comes from someone that, as an Archbishop, deserves our respect.”

“This is difficult and embarrassing position in which to put the Members,” de Vollmer noted. “It has also been a sad waste of the time and efforts of the members and the money that the Holy See has invested in the PAV (Pontifical Academy for Life). Most members seem to feel that our obedience to our oath and to the Holy Father and to the sacredness of life requires that we must defend the Magisterium in this case also. Many other members have expressed that they would have liked to sign with us. Collecting signatures is very time-consuming, however, and we wanted to respond at once.”

Also troubling to de Vollmer is that she feels she has been misrepresented in the media.

A Feb. 12 Catholic News Service article portrayed her as being at ease with how the situation currently stands within the PAV. But, de Vollmer emphasized to CNA, it is important to note that she had been interviewed on Feb. 9 and before the assembly where Archbishop Fisichella had made his “incendiary” statements.

The Academy for Life member charged that the CNS article “manipulated my statement to look as if I was 'satisfied that the issue was closed' (and) to look as if it had been made after the PAV meeting, when in fact it was said before the Archbishop’s incendiary speech insulting an important number of Members.”

A CNS spokesperson told CNA that the Agency "stands by its original reporting" and emphasized that "we clearly state in our Feb. 12 story that we interviewed Ms. Vollmer on Feb. 9. Nowhere in our story did we infer that Ms. Vollmer had spoken with us during or following the academy meeting. There was no indication in our story that Ms. Vollmer's comments on Feb. 9 represented her views on Feb. 12."

"There was no indication that there was any discontent in the meeting until Ms. Vollmer and her cohorts circulated the letter to the press on Feb. 18," CNS explained.

Christine de Vollmer also spoke on the significance of the backlash from the Archbishop's statements in the L'Osservatore Romano article, stressing that “the fallacy of Archbishop Fisichella’s position, stated in the original OR article and then of course defended in his tirade at the members who dared to request a clarification, was not only that abortion 'to save her life' was justified, but contains a perhaps more dangerous assumption: that the ‘moral decision’ is up to the doctor in cases of health.”

“It was absolutely imperative to point out that the CDF had not backed up his original article, but had felt it necessary to issue a clarification,” de Vollmer stressed.

When asked whether or not Academy members are explicitly calling for Archbishop Fisichella's resignation in their letter, de Vollmer told CNA that the “signers are not the ones who can call for the Archbishop’s resignation. That is the province of the Holy Father. We did express the hope that the Holy Father would reassign this brilliant man to a position more suited to his talents.”

“I think it must be a very difficult situation for the Holy Father to have in such a position a man who is not clear himself on the issue of Abortion and on the 'conscience of the doctor' and who could express what he did in his first article in the OR and then stick to it, even after one year and the whole Clarification process,” noted de Vollmer.

Other signatories of the letter include Professor Luke Gormally, Monsignor Michel Schooyans, Dr. Maria Smereczynska, and Dr. Thomas Ward.

Another pro-life leader has also voiced her agreement with the letter. Judie Brown, head of the American Life League, said on Thursday, “This statement, issued February 16 2010, is not only accurate but principled, courageous and definitive.”

“I stand with my five fellow Academy members and pray to God that Archbishop Rino Fisichella ultimately sees the damage created by his imprudent comments of the past, publicly corrects them and reconciles with those Academy members who have taken this public position in an effort to bring healing based on Christ’s truth rather than church politics.”

To read the full statement issued by the five Pontifical Academy for Life members, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=961.

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