Santiago, Chile, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The recent publication of an actual photo of Blessed Laura Vicuna, patron of abuse victims, has prompted plans to modify a mural of the young Chilean painted on the outside wall of a shrine dedicated in her honor.
The current mural, painted by Italian artist Caffaro Rore shows her as a young girl with European features.
According to a press release, the mural will be modified by Argentinean architect Alejandro Santana, known for his work on both the Cathedral of Bariloche and the life-sized Stations of the Cross in Junin de los Andes – both located in Argentina.
Santana told the Chilean daily “El Mercurio” that “the photo that has just been made public is very revealing, and it shows many things, particularly her tearful eyes.”
“This picture really conveys what Laura Vicuna experienced,” said Santana. “I will try to portray a Laura who suffered her entire life, who was deprived of a father, a family, good health and a true picture of her face after her death.”
Laura Vicuna was born in Santiago, Chile on April 5, 1891. Her father died when she was only two and her mother had trouble making ends meet. She decided to move to Argentina with her two children.
According to the Salesian Sisters of John Bosco, once the family moved to Argentina, Laura realized that her mother had distanced herself from God and was living with a farmer named Manuel Mora. This caused Laura a lot of angst, so she offered her life to God for the conversion of her mother.
Over summer break in 1902, when she was 11-years-old, Manuel Mora tried to abuse Laura. She resisted, which angered him and he stopped giving her the money needed to attend a school run by the Salesian sisters. The sisters, however, allowed her to continue going to school, free of charge.
Then, on January 22, 1904, affected by the cold, harsh winter, Laura died in Junín, Argentina. God fulfilled his half of the bargain, and her mother was converted.
On September 3, 1988, Pope John Paul II declared Laura Vicuna a blessed.
Bishop Felipe Bacarreza Rodriguez of Santa Maria de los Angeles in Chile, said the traditional representation of Blessed Laura “was a good idea given the lack of a true picture of her.” However, he explained, now that an actual photo of her has been found, the old mural will have to be replaced.
The bishop noted that the actual photo of Blessed Laura shows a face that is “more serious, more profound, and has features that reflect the life of Laura.” He added that the recently-discovered photo “will inspire greater devotion to her.”
Steubenville, Ohio, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - Citing the “outstanding” pro-life and pro-family witness of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and his wife Karen, the Franciscan University of Steubenville has announced it will bestow the 2010 Poverello Medal upon the couple.
The medal, the university’s highest non-academic honor, will be presented by university president Fr. Terence Henry, TOR, at a formal reception on March 11 at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Fr. Henry said the Santorums have dedicated themselves to the pro-life cause and have stood up for “the sanctity and dignity of the human person.”
“They are true pro-life heroes, and Franciscan University is happy to honor them, especially during this time of increasing attacks on the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. Their witness as a pro-life couple inspires us all to keep fighting the good fight.”
Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 and served in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007.
A Franciscan University press release reported that he authored legislation that outlawed partial-birth abortion and led successful efforts to pass the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the Combating Autism Act.
He also led efforts to help the fight against AIDS in Africa and to secure religious liberty and the rights of women in totalitarian regimes.
Rick Santorum is now a radio show host, a newspaper columnist and a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He authored the 2005 bestseller “It Takes a Family.”
Karen Garver Santorum is both a nurse and an attorney. She worked for several years in a neonatal intensive care unit where she treated premature and very sick infants. She is an active member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
A stay-at-home mother to the Santorums’ seven children, she authored the book “Letters to Gabriel.” It tells about the love and heartbreak her family experienced at the premature birth and death of the Santorums’ child Gabriel.
The Poverello Medal is named after St. Francis of Assisi, who was called Il Poverello (“the little poor man.”) It commemorates those who show strength of character and Christian charity in their love for and service to the poor. Past recipients include Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - Opponents of a Washington, D.C. same-sex “marriage” law are appealing a court order that denied a motion to prevent the law from going into effect.
The attorneys filing the appeal represent registered voters such as Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) reports. Opponents of the law say that 59 percent of registered voters in the District want to vote on the new City Council law that changes the legal definition of marriage.
“The people have a right to have the final say on any law regarding marriage passed by the D.C. Council. The D.C. Charter makes that right clear, and officials should not be ignoring the right of the people to vote for or against the new definition of marriage fabricated by the council,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks.
Nimocks said the redefinition of marriage should not go into effect “until voters have the opportunity to vote on a critical matter that affects everyone in the District.”
Jackson and seven other registered voters filed a referendum with the Board of Elections and Ethics to secure a vote. The board rejected the proposed referendum, saying it violated the District’s human rights laws.
The attorneys appealing the case are from the ADF and Stand4MarriageDC.
The law will take effect on March 3 unless Congress disapproves it or the appellate court grants the motion to stop it from taking effect.
The D.C. same-sex “marriage” law purported to protect religious freedom, but its provisions have already helped force Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington to shut down its 80-year-old foster care and public adoption program.
Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - Responding to remarks by the Secretary of State of Scotland that encouraged openness to religion in public life, Cardinal Keith O’Brien welcomed the sentiment. However, he said the British Government has shown no evidence of openness but has instead has “taken no note whatsoever of the concerns of people of faith.”
The cardinal also accused the Government of conducting a “systematic and unrelenting attack on family values.”
Jim Murphy, the Scottish Secretary, delivered a speech at the House of Commons which advocated outreach to religious voters ahead of the general election. He told a think tank meeting that the Labour Party must accommodate the concerns of religious voters if the party is to win another term in power, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The BBC says he discussed the role of faith in U.S. politics and claimed that faith values have always been “at the very foundations of the Labour Party.”
Murphy, who is Catholic, said people of all faiths listen when Cardinal O’Brien speaks.
To this, Cardinal O’Brien on Tuesday responded that any recognition of the social role of faith and religion is “to be welcomed.”
“However, a tangible example by the Government over the last decade that it acknowledged or endorsed religious values would also have been welcomed. Instead we have witnessed this Government undertake a systematic and unrelenting attack on family values.”
The cardinal also said that he had personally voiced this charge to Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a 2008 meeting.
“I have seen no evidence since then to suggest anything has changed," the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh continued.
He said the objections of the Church and other faiths were ignored in legislation to permit experimentation on and destruction of human embryos and also when civil partnerships and adoption by same-sex couples were permitted. The refusal to tackle the “soaring toll” of abortions also ignored religious concerns, he stated.
In a reference to the controversy over proposed restrictive provisions of the Equality Bill, his remarks concluded:
“Most recently in advancing legislation which would completely and permanently undermine religious freedom this Government has taken no note whatsoever of the concerns of people of faith.”
Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - With U.S. diocesan aid to Haiti now totaling over $30 million, a Haiti Advisory Group has been created to help the U.S. bishops assess and respond to the devastating January earthquake’s impact upon Haitians and the local Church.
The advisory group was created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. Archbishop of San Antonio José H. Gomez, who chairs the Subcommittee, will also chair the advisory group. He will be joined by Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Bishop of Orlando Thomas Wenski, and Bishop Guy Sansaricq.
Bishop Sansaricq is Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and the only Haitian-American bishop in the United States, a USCCB press release says.
“We’ve all been horrified by the images of such destruction, and yet, as a Haitian-American, I am deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support to our brothers and sisters in need,” he remarked.
Several members of the group will visit Haiti from March 1 to 3 to assess the damage and to identify how the Subcommittee can assist relief efforts.
Archbishop Gomez said the group’s visit will help advisement on the distribution of special collection funds.
“The purpose in setting up a special advisory group is to ensure that we can remain focused on the long term development needs of the Church in Haiti. The bishops will call upon other experts to help them in this task,” he continued.
The archbishop noted that the U.S. bishops called for special prayer services and vigils immediately after the quake. They also asked all dioceses to take up a collection for immediate emergency needs, long term rebuilding needs, and for the pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in Haiti.
“Only a few weeks later, one hundred ten U.S. dioceses have sent nearly $30 million to a special Haiti Relief Collection fund,” Archbishop Gomez reported. “Money from parishes and dioceses continues to come in.”
Cardinal O’Malley also commented on the “unprecedented” worldwide relief effort:
“The Catholic response in particular is a profound example of stewardship and the universal bonds that unite the Church. In traveling to Haiti, we will express the ongoing concern of all those Catholics who have reached out to Haiti in prayer and material support.”
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - Thursday marks the fifth day of meditation and prayer for this week's Lenten retreat at the Vatican. Over the past few days, Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo has offered reflections for the Holy Father and members of the Roman Curia during the annual retreat which began last Sunday and will continue until Saturday morning.
This fifth day of the Lenten spiritual exercises is deemed "Christological Day." Within Fr. dal Covolo's three meditations on Thursday, there are two morning sessions on "The history of the vocations of the first disciples," based on the Gospel of John. The afternoon meditation will illustrate the "priestly biography" of Venerable Servant of God Fr. Giuseppe Quadrio.
Organized to encompass the theme, "Lessons from God and the Church on Priestly Vocations," every day of the week has a focus. The retreat started with the "Day of Prayer for Priestly Vocations" with the "Day of Prayer for Missionaries" following. Wednesday was "Penitential Day" and Friday will mark "Marian Day."
The days consist of two morning meditations derived from bible passages relating to vocations, while a single afternoon session offers insights into the lives of exemplary priests including St. John Vianney, St. Augustine and "country priest," Fr. Georges Bernanos. Friday's afternoon meditation will center on the life of Venerable John Paul II.
The retreat includes daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, Vespers, Adoration and Eucharistic Benediction.
Fr. Enrico dal Covolo will conclude the week-long retreat on Saturday morning with his 17th meditation titled "The call of the first 'deacons'."
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the Holy See's Press Office released the full contents of a letter from the Holy Father to the president of the Brazilian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, on the occasion of the Campaign for Ecumenical Brotherhood. Pope Benedict praised the initiative and asked participants to "unite their forces to reconcile people with God, helping them and freeing them from the slavery of money."
Under the theme "Economy and Life" the 2010 Campaign for Ecumenical Brotherhood meets this year for the third time. In addition to the Catholic Church, five other Christian denominations are represented, each belonging to the National Council of Christian Churches in Brazil.
In his message to the Brazilian archbishop, which was read to inaugurate the Campaign, the Holy Father expressed the Lenten call to "be reconciled with God." He continued by citing the example of St. John Vianney, "who, in his time, knew how to transform the hearts and lives of many people, because he was able to make them feel the merciful love of the Lord."
The Holy Father also said that he hopes the Churches and ecclesial communities of Brazil have the same "success" as the Cure of Ars while they "unite their forces to reconcile the people with God, helping them and freeing them from the slavery of money."
The motto of the Campaign, "You cannot serve God and Mammon," was praised by the Pope because it shows the "intention of conversion." He reminded the participants that "slavery to money and injustice have their origin in the human heart, which contains the seeds of a mysterious coexistence with evil."
"This is why I encourage you to to persevere in your witness to the love of God, to the Son of God who became man, ... and to the only good that can satisfy the human heart," Pope Benedict wrote."We exist to show God to men." "And it is only where God is seen that life truly begins," he added.
Benedict XVI closed his message by imploring the "greatest blessings of God" over the 2010 Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity which began on Feb. 17 and will run until March 28.
The campaign is meant to bring Brazilian Christian Churches together to improve dialogue and work towards continued solidarity.
Madrid, Spain, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Spanish Senate voted Wednesday to pass the Socialist government’s new law on abortion. The decision will allow women over the age of 16 to obtain the procedure up until the 14th week of pregnancy.
The new law, which will go into effect in four months, was passed by a vote of 132-126. Members of the Socialist government, including Bibiana Aido, Minister of Equality, Trinidad Jimenez, Minister of Health, and Francisco Caamano, Minister of Justice, celebrated the outcome as “a great victory.”
For girls under the age of 16, the law states they must inform at least one parent or guardian of their desire to have an abortion, unless they can prove this would put them in physical danger.
Ironically, during his remarks at the World Congress against the death penalty being held this week in Geneva, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who supports abortion, said, “Nobody has the right to take the life of another human being - absolutely nobody.”
Following the passage of the law, the spokesperson for the Popular Party, Carmen Duenas, accused the Socialist government of both “imposing abortion on demand” on Spanish society and for having “scorn” for “the voice of the people,” who reject the law “by a clear majority.”
Duenas also slammed President Zapatero’s cabinet for wanting to “do away with the family, one of the pillars of Spanish society” and for “leaving life unprotected.”
“They are already destroying our country’s present; let them not destroy the future as well.
She also criticized the decision for “letting men off the hook from their responsibilities” and for placing abortion over motherhood. She added, “and you call that historic achievement, social advancement, progress and feminism. If anything it’s backwards and outdated feminism.”
On various occasions, the Bishops’ Conference of Spain and many individual bishops expressed their firm rejection of the new law, calling it a “serious step backward” in the protection of the unborn.”
“The state is calling something a right which, is actually an attack on the fundamental right to life,” the bishops said. “The protection of the fundamental good of human life and of the right to life are essential obligations of those in authority.”
“The inclusion of abortion among the instruments necessary for health care is in and of itself a grave falsity. Medicine is supposed to prevent illness or cure it. Pregnancy will never be an illness, even though it might entail complications to one’s health, be unplanned or even the result of violence.
“For this reason, abortion is never healing, it is always killing,” the bishops concluded.
Beirut, Lebanon, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Patriarch of the Syro-Catholic Church sent an urgent letter to the Iraqi Prime Minister on Wednesday pleading for government intervention to establish peace and security for Iraqi Christians, especially those in Mosul. The message is accompanied by news of peaceful protests from the area's Christians in the coming weeks.
Translated portions of the text written by Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, based in Beirut, Lebanon, to Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri Al-Maliki were sent to CNA by a priest from Mosul.
"We are writing you now with injured hearts because of the painful news we are receiving, especially from Mosul where the tendency of Christians being the target of 'anonymous' criminals has increased considerably," writes the Patriarch in the message.
Of Christians in Mosul, he relates, "they are killed, sacrificed and attacked in the streets, in schools and also in their own homes, this only because of their religious affiliation which is different from the affiliation of the majority who live in that city."
Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan also expresses his disbelief at the "excuses from those in charge of the government." These excuses, he charges, are "nothing more than complicity for the plan to empty Mosul of Christians who have lived there for so many centuries."
The rocks used to build the city still bear witness to "the sweat of their fathers," he added.
The Patriarch concluded his urgent message with an appeal to the government of Prime Minister al-Maliki "to strike with an iron arm and punish the criminals together with their accomplices in Mosul." If they are unable to "achieve peace and introduce security for the affected innocents," the Patriarch suggested that the government should arm Christians "so that they can, in some way, protect themselves from being sacrificed like sheep."
After the funerals on Wednesday of the most recent victims of violence, Syro-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Georges Casmoussa spoke to Vatican Radio. He said that Orthodox and Catholic bishops of the city have decided to stage protests on successive Sundays with moments of prayer in Christian cities and the suspension of all Masses.
Through these actions, he said, "we will give a message to the government."
Archbishop Casmoussa also responded to a question on the relationship between the killings and the March 7th elections in Iraq. "In all elections there are problems," he answered, "but not to the point of killing people and, in particular, Christians.
"Christians are killed not for a political point of view, but because they are Christians."
He also said that they have asked the governor to investigate, which he promised to do as well as sending military forces to search for the assassins, but no action had been taken yet.
Vatican City, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Culture has announced that it is creating a foundation to focus on relations with atheists and agnostics. The president of the Council announced the initiative on Wednesday as a response to Pope Benedict's call to "renew dialogue with men and women who don't believe but want to move towards God."
Speaking with the Italian Bishops' Conference's Avvenire newspaper, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture (PCC), outlined the objectives of the foundation, called "The Courtyard of the Gentiles."
"Firstly," he said, it is "to create a network of agnostic or atheistic people who accept dialogue and enter as members into the foundation and, as such, into our dicastery."
Archbishop Ravasi listed further objectives of starting relations with atheistic organizations, studying the "spiritual place" of non-believers and developing "themes of rapport between religion, society, peace and nature."
"With this initiative, we would like to help everyone to step out of a poor conception of believing, (and) promote the understanding that theology has scientific dignity" and a founding in nature, he continued.
These themes, said Archbishop Ravasi, would be addressed in a yearly conference, the first of which will take place in "the second half of this year, probably in Paris."
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, released a statement this week reaffirming his opposition to a judge's decision to allow same-sex marriage. The ruling, the cardinal pointed out, contradicts Argentinean law which defines marriage as a civil entity between one man and one woman.
The cardinal strongly criticized the decision of Judge Elena Liberatori in favor of a gay couple who filed a lawsuit for permission to marry. Judge Liberatori ruled that the civil registrar must give the same-sex couple a time slot for their “wedding.”
The mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, indicated that he would not appeal the judge’s decision.
In his statement, Cardinal Bergoglio made note of the fact that the ruling allowing marriage between persons of the same sex is contrary to the law in Argentina, which states that marriage must be between a man and a woman.
The cardinal concluded by explaining that the executive branch of the city government in Buenos Aires is the guarantor of legality there, and therefore the mayor of Buenos Aires has the duty to appeal the ruling.
Washington D.C., Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The evening before the White House Health care Summit in Washington, the U.S. Catholic bishops urged political leaders to commit to enacting “genuine” reform that will protect the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.
“The Catholic bishops have long supported adequate and affordable health care for all, because health care is a basic human right,” their letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) explained.
The Feb. 24 letter was signed by Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, the respective chairs of the bishops’ committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Pro-Life Activities and Migration.
“As pastors and teachers, we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity from conception to natural death, not threaten them, especially for the voiceless and vulnerable,” the prelates continued, adding that legislation must not violate the consciences of providers, taxpayers and purchasers of insurance.
“We believe universal coverage should be truly universal and should not be denied to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here,” the bishops wrote.
They said affordable and accessible health care based on such principles is a public good, a moral imperative and an “urgent national priority.”
The bishops encouraged legislation that ensures access to quality affordable health care, retains longstanding rules barring federal funds for elective abortions or plans that include them, protects conscience rights, and protects and expands immigrants’ access to health care.
“Dialogue should continue and no legislation should be finalized until and unless these basic moral criteria are met,” the bishops continued, saying they will work to ensure acceptable legislation and will oppose unacceptable legislation.
“We hope and pray that the Congress and the country will come together around genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all,” their letter concluded.
The health care summit was held today at the Blair House across the street from the White House and attended by close to 40 congressional members.
Mexico City, Mexico, Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) -
This week, Archbishop Felipe Aguirre Franco of Acapulco advised that no attention should be paid to the capricious wishes of minority groups who seek the legalization of abortion through changes in legislation. Instead, he said, it is always necessary to respect life.
In recent statements, the archbishop explained, “We are determined to pull Mexico from the terrible crises she is facing, with the violence of organized crime as the most urgent. Legislative bodies ought to be discussing these problems to provide solutions and unite society.”
“They ought not to be aggravating the current situation, which is what they are doing by discussing issues,” such as abortion.
After reiterating that the Church always defends life against every type of threat, Archbishop Aguirre remarked that “the issue of abortion is not a religious one; it is an issue that impacts all.”
Commenting on attempts by pro-abortion feminists to legalize abortion in the state of Guerrero, the archbishop underscored that the existing constitutional rights must be respected. “There is no need to insist on creating laws that distort. It is inappropriate to revive this issue when what is needed is respect for life.”
Green Bay, Wis., Feb 25, 2010 (CNA) - The Diocese of Green Bay in Wisconsin has chosen to withhold its annual funding of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) until further information has been gathered on allegations that recently surfaced.
The CCHD, which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. bishops, has recently come under fire for alleged connections with a network of community organizations that have promoted homosexual causes and abortion advocacy. In response to recent allegations the CCHD subcommittee has been investigating claims.
The Diocese of Green Bay's newspaper The Compass reported on Wednesday that Bishop David Ricken has decided to send his diocese's donations only to CRS and Peter's Pence, citing his need for more time to assess CCHD's situation locally and nationally.
Every year on the fourth Sunday of Lent, parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay have traditionally taken up a collection with a portion of it going to the CCHD.
“There have been some questions about programs that have received funding from CCHD,” said Fr. John Doerfler, vicar general and chancellor for the Diocese of Green Bay to The Compass. “That, along with the enormous post-earthquake needs in Haiti, we decided this is an appropriate time to give additional support to Catholic Relief Services while we analyze the situation with CCHD.”
The Green Bay Compass clarified that there have been no apparent problems in the local diocese regarding CCHD grants and church teachings. CCHD grants in the area so far have been allotted to Spanish-speaking immigrants, homeless and formerly homeless individuals and home health care aids, the paper reported.