Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico City released a statement last week strongly condemning the murder of Father Jose Luis Parra Puerto, a pastor and chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in the Mexican capital. The statement called upon the authorities to avoid cutting corners in the investigation and to not allow the case to remain unsolved.
Fr. Jose Luis Parra was abducted and subsequently shot in the head on February 17 when he resisted the theft of his truck. According to the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Fr. Parra had been at a Knights of Columbus meeting, and was giving another member of the organization a ride home when the two men were accosted. The layman was freed, but the priest's body was found in his truck hours later, in a suburb outside Mexico City.
“The Church in Mexico City demands that competent officials carry out a rigorous investigation in order to bring justice and punish those guilty of this sacrilegious homicide.” The archdiocese then called for the attorney general of Mexico City to investigate and solve the murder.
The statement said the crime brought back memories of the case of Father Ricardo Junius Sander, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, whose murder was overshadowed by the inefficiency of the justice system. The fact that the police and investigators did not execute their task thoroughly led to the tarnishing of the dead priest's name and honor. The statement also highlighted the incompetence of the police in investigating what was termed the “inexplicable suicide” of Marist Brother Pedro Escamilla Sanchez, which occurred earlier this month.
It is hoped that this statement, which calls upon the highest authorities, will bring attention to the injustice of the recent murders, and also to encourage efficiency in the criminal investigation and resolution of the case.
The archdiocese then joined in the “international condemnation” of the murder of Fr. Parra, “who had just received approval for a foundation he was promoting to assist the poor,” the statement indicated.
Rome, Italy, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - An Italian Facebook group that calls for children with Down syndrome to be used for target practice has drawn protest from disability support groups and government officials.
The group page shows a photo of a Down syndrome baby with the word “idiot” superimposed on in, Agence France Presse reports. It proposed a purportedly “easy and amusing solution” to get rid of “these foul creatures” by using them as targets at shooting ranges.
By late Sunday the group had 1,700 members.
Manuela Colombo, the president of a support group for families with Down syndrome, condemned the ad.
“People’s ignorance has no limits,” she told ANSA.
Italy’s Equality Minister, Mara Carfagna, said the group was “unacceptable and dangerous” and promised legal action.
Police action could be delayed because Facebook is based in Palo Alto, California and a lengthy legal process may be required.
One baby in 1,200 is born with Down syndrome in Italy and there are 38,000 people with the condition living there, AFP reports.
Vatican City, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - To mark the end of the Year for Priests in June of this year an international convention will be held in Rome. Events are open to priests and anyone else who feels called to "prayer for the spiritual support and sanctification of Clergy."
The convention, titled "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of the Priest," will take place from June 9 - 11, 2010. Four major events at various sites around the Eternal City are planned to mark the occasion.
On the first day, the theme of "Conversion and Mission" will be developed at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-walls, where the remains of St. Paul lie entombed under the altar. Archbishop Joachim Meisner of Cologne will lead the reflection and Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, will preside at Mass.
The next day, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, will give a conference on "The Cenacle: the invocation of the Holy Spirit in union with Mary and in fraternal communion” at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Cardinal Ouellet's presentation will be followed by a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
On the evening of the same day, June 10, a vigil will take place in St. Peter's Square, featuring testimonies, musical interludes, dialogue with the Holy Father Benedict XVI, Adoration and the Eucharistic blessing.
On the final day of the convention, under the theme "With Peter, in ecclesial communion," Pope Benedict will preside over Mass at St. Peter Basilica in the Vatican.
According to a communique from the Congregation for Clergy announcing the events, the convention is meant to be a "true and real 'spiritual itinerary.'"
The schedule will guide participants from the "the conversion of St. Paul and his missionary zeal" to "the experience of divine intimacy, root and foundation of every apostulate, in the Cenacle with the Blessed Virgin Mary and invoking the Spirit."
The conclusion of the event offers an occasion for "renewal of the faith and the priestly promises, around the Successor of Peter" in the encounter with the Pope for Mass at the Vatican.
According to the Congregation, the occasion is "obviously" open to "all faithful who, sincerely and with authentic evangelical spirit, perceive the particular importance of prayer for the spiritual support and sanctification of the Clergy, as well as the consecrated souls that live the dimension of spiritual maternity, in communion and under the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Pretoria, South Africa, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - Lamenting that the legacy of Nelson Mandela has been “substantially squandered,” South Africa’s National Church Leaders’ Consultation has said it welcomes President Jacob Zuma’s proposal of a national dialogue on morality.
The president was recently shown to have fathered a child out of wedlock, an action which drew significant criticism. The child is Zuma's 20th and is not from one of his multiple wives.
He recently told the South Africa paper the Sunday Times that there was a need for agreement upon “values that define a common South African identity.”
“We need this conversation that must help us reach a common understanding as South Africans,” he added. “Values may not exactly be the same, but how do we bring harmony to this?”
He cited Nelson Mandela’s exhortation to live together in harmony, saying that the discussion has not been taken further.
"How do we judge our values as a society? How do we judge other communities with whatever they practice? We need to create some platform to strengthen the respect of one another. We need to create a platform where there is no community that does not respect another."
In what the Sunday Times said was an apparent reference to his polygamous marriages, President Zuma urged all South Africans to “respect all cultures.”
National Church Leaders' Consultation issued a statement in response to the president’s comments, welcoming the proposed national dialogue on morality.
“As a nation, we have been reaping the fruits of attitudes – social, economic moral and political - that have undermined and continue to undermine what common values and principles of behavior we shared in the recent past to achieve our new South Africa.
“The elements of a legacy which were beginning to emerge under the leadership of former President Nelson Mandela and his generation of leaders have been substantially squandered.”
The church leaders said that South Africa is “floundering,” “directionless” and “clueless” about its destination as a country.
“The goodwill, momentum and historical opportunity of the World Cup should not be left to waste, for fear that after the event all we are left with is debt and acrimony,” they warned.
The Consultation proposed the “intrinsic and inalienable value” of the human person as a foundational principle.
“All else in any code of morals must take its lead from that basic principle. In this way we will avoid all considerations of race, class, nationality, religion and political persuasion.”
For Christians, this basic principle takes its origin from every person’s creation in the image and likeness of God, the church leaders explained. Such a principle would be the only way to judge the fair and just application of the Constitution to all those who have been given the gift of life, “from babies in their mothers’ wombs to natural death.”
Charlotte, N.C., Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - A proposed North Carolina school textbook that described Roe v. Wade as a ruling against government oppression of rights has been altered following opposition from Catholics and other pro-life advocates.
More than 1,800 participants in the Catholic Voice campaign e-mailed the state’s Department of Public Construction with their concerns. The material was removed on Feb. 18.
Bishop of Raleigh Michael F. Burbidge and Bishop of Charlotte Peter J. Jugis wrote a letter of thanks to those who e-mailed their protest.
The bishops reported that any reference to Roe v. Wade has been removed from the essential standards and prototype assessments from the draft versions of the curriculum.
“We are grateful to all who notified the Department of Public Instruction of your opposition to the way Roe v. Wade was being used in the proposed text. We believe your voices helped to make this change possible,” the bishops added.
“May the Lord bless you for your efforts to defend the unborn and ensure that our children are being properly educated.”
The proposed text had asserted that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide, was an example of the Supreme Court upholding rights “against oppressive government.”
If the text were approved, the bishops had warned, children would be taught the textbook’s interpretation was the correct one. They had argued the proposed text implied that opposition to Roe v. Wade was wrong.
Vatican City, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Holy Father offered his profound condolences today for the victims of the recent flooding on the Portuguese island of Madeira. In a telegram to the Bishop Antonio Jose Cavaco Carrilho of Funchal, he said that he was "dismayed with the "grave consequences" of the disaster.
Torrential rains hammered the island of Madeira in the Atlantic over the weekend, swelling rivers and leaving the coastal city of Funchal "thigh deep in mud," according to Agence France Presse. At least 42 people perished in the tragedy.
The papal telegram comes on the second of three days of mourning decreed by the Portuguese goverment for the victims. Through the letter signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy Father wished to "assure the whole local community" that he had entrusted the victims to God and asked for "comfort and assistance" for the victims' families, for the injured and for everyone who had lost their possessions.
Pope Benedict XVI also offered his Apostolic Blessing and invoked the divine graces on "all tested by this drama," as well as those participating in search and rescue and relief efforts on the island.
SIR news agency reported yesterday that Bishop Cavaco Carrilho of Funchal also expressed his "profound communion and solidarity to the population and victims" on Tuesday.
Vatican City, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Vatican announced today that Pope Benedict appointed Fr. Terry LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, N.Y. as its 14th bishop. Fr. LaValley has served as the diocesan administrator since the see was vacated by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, when he was assigned to lead the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y.
Bishop-elect LaValley grew up and was educated in New York state, though he left to serve a six-year tour of duty with the United States Navy before entering the seminary in 1983. Just five years later, Bishop-elect LaValley had earned a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained a priest. In 1994, he graduated from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with degrees in canon law.
Over the years, Bishop-elect LaValley has held numerous positions in the diocese, such as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Episcopal Vicar for Diocesan Services and Chancellor of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, pastor of St. Raphael’s Church, and rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, culminating in his recent tenure as diocesan administrator.
He will continue to function as the diocese's administrator until his installation as bishop.
Bishop-elect LaValley will be ordained a bishop at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Friday, April 30.
The Diocese of Ogdensburg itself is comprised of 116,000 Catholics. The diocese is served by 119 priests, 127 religious and 62 permanent deacons.
Vatican City, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict appointed a replacement today for the diocese left vacant by the unexpected resignation of Bishop Joseph Martino last August. Msgr. Joseph C. Bambera was chosen by the Holy Father to lead the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania as its 10th bishop.
The bishop-elect is currently the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas parish at Archbald and of St. Mary of Czestochowa parish at Eynon. With the Diocese of Scranton vacant, Msgr. Bambera served as a delegate to Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philidelpia and helped run the daily operations of the diocese.
Bishop Martino retired at the age of 63 last year following what some called a contentious tenure at the helm of the Scranton diocese.
Though the bishop cited “crippling physical fatigue” as his primary reason for stepping down, he also stated in a press conference last Aug. 31 that disunity and a lack of “clear consensus” among the clergy about his “way of governance” were also to blame for his resignation. Bishop Martino was known as a staunch pro-life advocate and for his critiques of Sen. Bob Casey Jr., whom he urged to be more outspoken against abortion.
The new bishop-elect, Msgr. Bambera, was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania and, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune, grew up attending Catholic schools in the area. Msgr. Bambera was ordained a priest in 1983 and was made a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The date of Msgr. Bambera's ordination Mass has yet to be announced.
Bogotá, Colombia, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary for 40 years, told participants at a Colombian conference that the late-Pope's beatification process “is practically finished.”
“In order for the beatification to take place, it is important that the Church recognizes a miracle in which he has interceded. There is a case that is currently being investigated and it is of the miraculous healing of a French nun suffering from Parkinson’s.”
Regarding the date of the beatification, the cardinal said, “It is not known, but his tomb is visited by thousands who thank him for favors.”
“Not only do Christians want to see him made a saint, but Jews and Muslims as well.”
Speaking later of the affection and fervor of the people towards John Paul II, Cardinal Dziwisz said, “He changed the world from the political and religious points of view; he taught that the solution to problems lies in solidarity and in love. He overcame all the thresholds. His teachings should be applied today to help this world in crisis.”
Responding to those who criticized the short length of JPII's cause for canonization, the Polish cardinal admitted it has been a speedy process, “but one cannot say it has been done poorly. It has been an effective time for delving deeper into the legacy he left. The same ones who criticized him because they did not like his moral positions are the same who are criticizing him now.”
Addressing the claim that John Paul II whipped himself and slept on the floor, the Archbishop of Krakow said, “I cannot confirm it or deny it. He was a man of great spirituality, his principal characteristic was having a spirit of prayer and contemplation. In many convents today the practice of penance through flagellation exists, and it has given us other great saints such as St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa.”
Speaking to his Colombian audience, Cardinal Dziwisz added that Pope John Paul II “always said that Latin America is the continent of hope. He loved Colombia and had many friends here, cardinals and priests, because the presence of Colombia in Rome has always been significant.”
Also during his Colombia visit, in an interview with the Colombian daily, “El Tiempo,” the cardinal shared John Paul II's requests and actions just before he died.
After saying that the late-Pope "died like a holy man," the cardinal added that JPII "said goodbye to his colleagues, to Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI), even to the housekeepers. He asked that the entire Gospel of St. John be read to him and thus he prepared to go.
“There was an incredible peace.”
Managua, Nicaragua, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - In an attempt to pressure officials in Nicaragua to legalize abortion, feminist groups are drawing attention to the dramatic case of a pregnant woman suffering from cancer, arguing that the only chance of survival for “Amelia,” the fictitious name given to the woman, is to undergo an abortion.
Pro-abortion feminist groups, who have not released any further details about “Amelia,” claim “therapeutic” abortion is her only option and that she is being denied the procedure. They have sent letters to the director of the Escuela Oscar Danilo Rosales Hospital in the city of Leon, where the woman resides, to the Minister of Health, to the justices of the Supreme Court and to Nicaragua’s president, demanding that abortion be legalized in the country.
Abortion supporters are led by Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights; Dr. Oscar Flores Vigil, president of the Nicaraguan Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics; Marta Maria Blandon, as well as other members of the “Strategic Group for the Legalization of Abortion.”
According to Carlos Polo, director of the Latin American Office for the Population Research Institute (PRI), this is another “fabricated” case created by the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. “Its obvious to anyone who follows these cases presented by abortion groups in recent years that the ‘urgency’ coincides perfectly with the political agenda of those supporting legalized abortion.”
Polo said that there have already been offers to help Amelia, “but feminists are keeping her isolated.”
“That they haven’t given many details about the clinical history of Amelia is telling. They have given a version of the story in which the only possible option for saving her life would be through abortion,” Polo said.
“Honest medical science sees it differently,” Polo continued. “Uptodate.com is a well-known medical information service and the information it offers on ovarian cancer treatment for a pregnant woman can be summarized as follows: In most cases of pregnant women with cancer, it is possible to treat the pregnant mother without seriously endangering the baby. It is rare that the womb needs to be removed in order to reduce the cancer if surgery is performed during pregnancy.”
“Finally,” Polo added, “ending pregnancy early does not improve the prognosis for ovarian cancer. It has been shown that ovarian cancer can be cured through chemotherapy ...”
In an attempt to clarify the confusion created by feminists in the manipulation of the case of “Amelia,” the Nicaraguan Medical Association issued a statement noting that “it has been scientifically shown that in cases of gynecological cancer, pregnancy does not influence either the progression or the spread of tumors. Based on the clinical stage of the cancer, there are different options for her treatment in Nicaragua.”
In the case of “Amelia,” Polo said, there is no reason to submit her to an abortion. Abortion will not cure her cancer.
“Is it a coincidence that all of the main players surrounding ‘Amelia’ all agree on the same point: ‘an abortion will save the life of the mother?' … You’d have to be pretty naïve or have a serious case of amnesia to think that,” Polo stated.
He concluded saying that PRI follows up on these “fabricated” cases “in which the misery of poor women in Latin America is used to further the political agendas of New York NGOs. The motto of the PRI is ‘Put people first,’ and we reject the manipulation of human suffering in the case of ‘Amelia’ and other similar ones.”
Madrid, Spain, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Institute for Family Policy in Spain, Eduardo Hertfelder, stated this week that “Spain is now paying the price for allowing abortion.” As the number of young people declines in the country, less funds are generated to pay retirement benefits for the elderly.
According to Hertfelder, the reduction of young people aged 0-14 due to abortion “poses continual risk to the retirees of the future.”
“The lack of a younger population will, in the next 15-20 years, endanger retirement, as sufficient funds will not be generated to guarantee benefits,” he warned.
“Without abortion,” Hertfelder explained, “the younger population would have already surpassed the elderly.” However, as of 2008, he noted, “the number of people above the age of 65 is now over one million higher than the number of people under age 14.”
“The slight recovery in the birth rate has been truncated by the increase in abortions over the recent years,” he said. This has resulted in a “significant decrease in young people in the population pyramid.”
New Dehli, India, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - Reactions to the "blasphemous" use of an image of Jesus in Indian school textbooks resulted in the damage of two churches and a number of businesses over the weekend in the northern Punjab state. In response, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India is calling for a boycott of all books written by the textbook publisher.
An image of Christ holding a can of what looks like Schlitz beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other has raised eyebrows across India and sparked unrest last Saturday in the Punjabi city of Batala. According to the Vatican's Fides news agency, the image printed in elementary school textbooks was labeled with the word "idol."
A group of Catholic sisters in the city of Shillong in northeastern India had seen the image in print and asked that the book not be used in schools, which the state government honored. However, according to Fides and other news sources, in other places fundamentalists opted to post copies of the representation in public places, some reaction was peaceful, other was not.
A protest of the image was organized on Feb. 20 involving all the Christian denominations in the area. Unfortunately, the demonstration degenerated to the point of a motorbike being burnt.
Hindu fundamentalist groups leaders reportedly mobilized their leaders, inciting the crowd and prompting them to retaliate. The mob set fire to a church belonging to the Churches of North India. The building was destroyed and its minister and his 15-year-old son were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds.
Four Christian youth and four Hindus were taken into police custody for creating public disorder and have since been released pending further investigation into the matter by the local judiciary.
The spokesman for the Indian Bishops' Conference, Fr. Babu Joseph, told Fides, "We asked all Catholic schools in India to withdraw the text and to boycott all the books of Skyline Publications.
"That image is unacceptable and goes against every principle of respect and dialogue," Fr. Joseph said.
Valletta, Malta, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) -
In preparation for Pope Benedict's coming visit to Malta, the Holy See has released some numbers concerning the Church there. The large number of Catholics on the island nation could mean the Pope will see huge crowds.
The Holy Father will be visiting Malta between April 17 and 18 on the occasion of the 1,950th anniversary of the shipwreck of St. Paul.
If the statistics released through Vatican Press Office on Tuesday are any sign, it's likely that the Pope will draw large crowds during his visit.
The Central Office of Statistics of the Church reports that 94.4 percent of the country's 443,000 people are Catholic and that there are 853 religious and diocesan priests in their service.
This, according to the official statistics, means that there is a priest for every 490 Catholics on the island and an average of 10 priests for every place of worship.
In addition to the elevated number of clergy, there are almost 1,150 religious in Malta.
The Church in Malta also has 91 major seminarians, nearly half the number currently studying for the priesthood in Ireland, which has nearly 10 times the population.
Among scheduled events over Pope Benedict's two-day visit are stops at the place traditionally though to have been where St. Paul preached and St. Paul's Grotto in Rabat. The Holy Father will also celebrate Sunday Mass in the Granaries Square of Floriana.
Port au Prince, Haiti, Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - In a recent letter sent to the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Louis Kébreau, President of the Bishop's conference in Haiti, lauded the group and gave them his “deepest gratitude” for their financial contributions to the country, particularly the aid they have given to the surviving seminarians in the area.
In addition to supplying $70,000 in emergency assistance to Haiti, ACN also provided $100,000 to the remaining seminarians who survived the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake and were left destitute. ACN reported that at least 26 seminarians died and more than 200 of them were stranded after their seminary buildings collapsed. In his message, Archbishop Kébreau said the seminarians were now receiving ongoing medical aid and counseling.
“With this letter, I would like to express my deepest gratitude on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Haiti and also the seminarians…True love is compassionate. Your kind gesture gives us the strength and hope to build and unite our efforts to carry on … ,” Archbishop Kébreau told ACN earlier this week.
Aid to the Church in Need also received a message from the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who gave them a brief report on how the charity’s money has been spent. The nuncio explained in his letter that the funding is being used for both short term projects – such as emergency aid, including food and medical care – to long term projects which include paying fees for children who attend Catholic schools in the area.
Archbishop Auza also mentioned that funds are being given to provide a temporary chancellery for the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, which was demolished in the earthquake along with the Cathedral and church offices.
The nuncio also spoke of the “huge task” of reconstructing the devastated country, a process he said will take decades. Haiti President Rene Preval announced on Feb. 22 that the death toll was expected to reach almost 300,000, a number much higher than previously assumed.
In spite of the current struggles faced by those in Haiti, Archbishop Kebreau remained hopeful in his letter to ACN, saying “My messages are with you (ACN). God is love, truth and justice and he wants us to create a new civilization, one of love."
Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2010 (CNA) - Pro-life Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) released a statement on Tuesday morning, calling President Obama's latest health care proposal “unacceptable” on the issue of abortion.
Rep. Stupak, who has been outspokenly opposed to abortion during his political tenure, said on Feb. 23 that he “was pleased to see that President Obama’s health care proposal did not include several of the sweetheart deals provided to select states in the Senate bill.”
“Unfortunately, the President's proposal encompasses the Senate language allowing public funding of abortion,” the Michigan representative stated. “The Senate language is a significant departure from current law and is unacceptable,” he added.
“While the President has laid out a health care proposal that brings us closer to resolving our differences, there is still work to be done before Congress can pass comprehensive health care reform.”
Rep. Stupak stepped into the national political spotlight when he introduced an amendment to the House health care reform bill that maintained the Hyde Amendment ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions. The Stupak Amendment passed in the House by a vote of 240-194 last November.
President Obama's health care proposal comes at a time when congressional leaders are still divided on the issue. The recent election of Republican Senator Scott Brown to an historically Democratic seat in Massachusetts has added to the complexity of the situation and has caused some to claim it unlikely that there are enough votes to pass health care reform legislation in either the House or the Senate as it currently stands.