Abuja, Nigeria, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Early morning raids on three villages near Jos, Nigeria by Muslim shepherds on Sunday morning left hundreds of Christian farmers dead. Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja emphasized on Monday that the source of the unrest is due to socio-economic concerns, not religion.
In an interview with Vatican Radio, the archbishop called the confrontations “the classic conflict between shepherds and farmers.”
It’s estimated that the conflict on Sunday left over 200 people dead. Ethnic Fulani herdsmen attacked three villages of inhabited by members of the Berom ethnicity in the early hours of Sunday morning. The BBC reported that many of the victims were women, children and elderly attacked with machetes.
The three villages are all within 10 miles of the city of Jos, in the central Plateau state of Nigeria. Analysts dubbed Sunday’s conflict a reprisal for another encounter between Christians and Muslims in January that left hundreds dead.
Archbishop Olorunfemi said that international media often link violence between ethnic groups in Nigeria to religious roots, but, he explained, “this is not the case, because they don’t kill each other due to religion, but for social, economic, tribal, (or) cultural demands."
The Church’s reaction, the archbishop said, is that "we continue to work to promote good relations between Christians and Muslims and we seek also to come to an agreement in trying to curb the violence and work together to face concrete political and ethical problems."
He added that it would be the duty of the Nigerian government to provide security for the area, but “it appears to not have the capacity to do so.”
Ninety five people have been arrested for Sundays conflicts, according to the Vatican Radio report, which was hand delivered to the media by Fr. Federico Lombardi in the Holy See’s Press Office.
Vatican City, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has launched this year’s Easter appeal for the support of Christians in the Holy Land. The call for support is accompanied by an exhortation to reinforce solidarity and preserve the “Christian origins” of the region.
In a letter to priests released by the Holy See’s Press Office on Monday, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, presents the motivations for this year’s initiative, inspired by Pope Benedict’s pilgrimage there last May.
Asking for prayers, participation and practical generosity, Cardinal Sandri calls for the collaboration of pastors from the Church around the world. In this universality, he writes, they will find motivation to be sensitive to the needs of the Church in the Middle East, which can be manifested in the form of help, remembrance and collections for this year’s appeal.
Recalling the inspiration provided by Benedict XVI upon his visit to the Holy Land in May of 2009, Cardinal Sandri reminds the clergy of the Church's commitment to the preservation of holy places.
“Let us, therefore, return in our hearts to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where the Teacher and Lord ‘loved us to the end'; to that place where the Apostles with the Holy Mother of the Risen Crucified One experienced the first Pentecost,” the prelate writes in the letter.
He also asks priests to “work tirelessly to guarantee a future to Christians in the place where ‘the kindness and humanity’ of Our God and Father first appeared.”
On Pope Benedict’s behalf, Cardinal Sandri urges the involvement of all “to reinforce the solidarity that has been shown so far.”
Eastern Christians, he underscored, deserve the support of the whole Church in completing their “responsibility to preserve the ‘Christian origins,'" meaning both the people and places, "so that those origins may always be the reference of the Christian mission, the measure of the ecclesial future and its security.”
Along with the letter, the Vatican released a list of the apostolic works promoted and implemented from 2008 – 2009 by the Custody of the Holy Land.
Among the 20 projects set in motion, 10 were continued or completed at pilgrims destinations. Restorations were completed at the Shrines of the Visitation and of St. John of the Desert in Ain Karem, for example. A project for the restoration of the Chapel of the True Cross in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was carried out and other funds were directed to the continuation of efforts to restore the Grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
Local communities also benefit from the initiatives funded by the yearly appeals. Scholarships for university studies are given to 350 students annually and assistance is provided for a children’s home in Bethlehem, as well as family counselling and medical services.
Bern, Switzerland, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - In response to an alarming increase in sexual promiscuity among children ages 10 – 14, the Swiss government has decided to begin distributing “extra-small” condoms.
A study by the Swiss government’s Federal Commission for Children and Youth has revealed a significant increase in the percentage of minors between the ages of 10 and 14 who have sexual relations "frequently" in comparison to the results of similar studies from the 1990s.
In “response,” the government has announced it will distribute smaller condoms under the brand “Hotshot.”
Swiss officials explained their decision citing research by the University of Basilea which says young people are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases due to the misuse of condoms.
Critics were quick to note that the promiscuity problems will not be solved by introducing smaller condoms but through changes in behavior. They point out that the university study also shows that “minors do not have adequate sexual information and do not understand the consequences of what they are doing.”
Havana, Cuba, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Paya, issued a statement last week encouraging the efforts of human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience in the country, but asked that their demands be made without resorting to hunger strikes.
Paya's statement explained that “hunger strikes by defenders of human rights and prisoners of conscience are often a last resort for those suffering abuse and repression by the Cuban government.”
“We are not the judges of those who are on a hunger strike,” he continued, “but rather their … partners in the struggle.”
Paya noted that that the Christian Liberation Movement does not "encourage hunger strikes," and called for an end to them so the prisoners “do not harm their health or lose their valuable lives.”
“We do, however, support them in their just demands, which are also our own.”
Paya then called on “all governments, institutions and citizens of the world to demand that the Cuban government immediately release peaceful political prisoners and respect human rights in the country. Thus they will help to save those who are on hunger strike and will contribute to dialogue and peace."
“We will not in any way encourage anyone to engage in or remain on a hunger strike,” Paya said in conclusion.
Vatican City, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - “Enough! There needs to be a serious house cleaning in our Church. And the Pope is not just going to stand by and watch.” These were the words of Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, that were printed in the pages of Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper on Saturday.
The German cardinal’s strong words followed Friday’s news of abuse in the Diocese of Regensburg’s boy’s choir.
“Sexual abuses of minors by representatives of the clergy are criminal acts, shameful, inadmissible mortal sins,” he said in the interview. They are “ignoble actions, among the darkest of the Church.”
Cardinal Kasper declared his support for Pope Benedict XVI's intention to bring all cases to light and clarify them with zero tolerance "towards those who stain themselves with such grave sins.”
In the face of sexual abuse of minors that has surfaced in the Churches of Ireland, Germany and Holland in the last year, Pope Benedict has expressed his dismay at their "horrific" nature and urged every effort to bring clarity to the situation.
On Saturday, the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano printed a message from the Holy See regarding a statement from Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Regensburg concerning details of the investigations in his diocese.
The Holy See expressed its support for the diocese in examining cases from the 1950s “decisively and in an open way.”
“The main objective of the clarification by the Church is to render justice to possible victims,” the statement said.
The President of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, is expected at the Vatican for an audience with the Holy Father on March 12 to speak about the issue.
Vatican City, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A course for young priests on the proper administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation began Monday afternoon in the Vatican. The classes aim to prepare the priests for especially delicate matters that come up in the confessional.
The “Course on the Internal Forum” will run until March 12 and is offered primarily to young priests, according to a communique released for the occasion and cited on Vatican Radio.
The initiative, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, employs experts who will address “moral and canonical themes that involve the penitential ministry” along the course of the five days. Special attention is being given to confessions.
According to the communique released for the occasion, issues of “particular delicateness” are being confronted in the classes and guidance is to be provided on “the canonical discipline and its correct application regarding the offenses, the penance and various practical aspects.” Particularly complex and delicate cases involving conjugal and family morals will be examined, along with confession as an “instrument for moral education.”
Major Penitentiary Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli is presiding over the course, which is being held in the Vatican’s Palace of the Chancery.
Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - In comments to the newspaper, “Le Point,” Jewish historian Saul Friedländer defended Pius XII against accusations that he was “Hitler's Pope.” Friedländer recalled that Pope Pacelli's aversion to Nazism was made known by his collaboration in the writing of Pius XI's encyclical, “Mit brennender Sorge.”
Friedländer previously taught contemporary history at the University Institute of Higher International Studies in Geneva and also worked at universities in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. He is the author of such books as, “Hitler and the United States,” “Pius XII and the Third Reich,” and “Reflections on the Future of Israel.”
In the interview with Le Point, which was covered by L’Osservatore Romano (LOR), the Jewish historian referred to the silent work of Pius XII.
While some say he did little to protest the deportation of Jews and the Holocaust, written records and witnesses tell another story. They testify to his actions in defense of the Jews. Accounts of his intervention to save 4,000 Jews from a ghetto in Rome and place them in convents and Catholic schools refute claims of his passiveness.
In response to accusations against Pius XII's character, LOR pointed out, “Friedländer says he does not want to transform Pius XII into ‘Hitler’s Pope,’ as others have done. Instead, he recounts Pope Pacelli’s aversion to Nazism and his collaboration in the drafting of Mit brennender Sorge,” Pius XI’s encyclical condemning Nazi ideology.
San José, Costa Rica, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Costa Rica released a statement expressing concern over a recent ruling by the country's Constitutional Court which stripped the Church its right to choose which religion teachers will be hired in Costa Rican schools.
Last month, Costa Rica's Constitutional Court took away the Church's right to choose which religion teachers it will hire, after reversing a 1972 law stating that all religious teachers must be approved by the Bishops’ Conference of Costa Rica.
“We respect the decision of the Constitutional Court, but at the same time we are concerned about the insecurity and confusion that the ruling has caused among teachers and students of religious education, as well as parents,” the bishops said.
The foundation of religious education, they explained, “lies in the inalienable right of Catholic parents to educate their children according to their faith and convictions. It is a human right that must be respected, and it is the duty of the Costa Rican State to make the greatest effort possible to ensure parents are offered this education in public schools.”
After noting that religious education is also good for the state, the bishops expressed their concern over “the tendency to want to replace Catholic religious education with … education in ethics, aesthetics or values, denying the rights of parents and to choose Catholic religious education for their sons and daughters.”
For these reasons, the bishops called on parents to provide the necessary religious education to their children; on authorities to respect this right; on teachers to assume this task with responsibility and to respect “current law that protects Catholic religious education.”
They also encouraged a strengthening of the collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the area of education.
Denver, Colo., Mar 8, 2010 (CNA) - After local media reported that the child of a lesbian couple was refused enrollment at an elementary school in Boulder, the Archdiocese of Denver told CNA that opposition to its decision comes from those “who disagree with the Church’s position on homosexuality in general” and want an “excuse” to voice their opinion.
Local channel 9NEWS reported on Friday that the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Boulder, Colorado recently held a meeting to discuss the situation of a pre-school student whose parents are lesbians. School staff members were told early last week that the child would not be allowed to re-enroll. According to the station, certain anonymous staff members reacted negatively and were “disgusted” by the archdiocese's decision.
In response to this claim, Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA that “So far any school staff feedback hasn’t been expressed to the Catholic schools office. We have heard from some Catholic school parents from SHJ but the number is not high.”
“We are hearing mostly from people who disagree with the Church’s position on homosexuality in general and this decision is an excuse to voice that opposition to Church teaching,” she added.
In a statement on Friday, the archdiocese explained its decision by saying that the “principal reason parents place their children in Archdiocese of Denver Schools is to reinforce the Catholic beliefs and values that the family seeks to live at home.”
“Parents living in open discord with Catholic teaching in areas of faith and morals unfortunately choose by their actions to disqualify their children from enrollment,” the Friday statement said.
Rome, Italy, Mar 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recent letter, Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) Member Christine de Vollmer asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi to issue a formal clarification of his recent comments characterizing a statement written by a group of PAV members as a call for the resignation of the Academy's president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
Christine de Vollmer and several other PAV members issued a statement on Feb. 19, which criticized the actions of their leader Archbishop Fisichella and denied his remarks to the press that the group is free of disagreement and disunity.
Although Fr. Lombardi interpreted the Feb. 19 statement in his remarks to reporters as an official request for Fisichella's resignation, de Vollmer insisted that this was not her or the other signatories intent in publishing their comments.
“You have unfortunately misrepresented me and my colleagues by your remarks to the press and in L’Osservatore Romano regarding the Statement we published on February 19, 2010 and I ask you to print a correction for the information of the many interested parties worldwide,” de Vollmer wrote to Fr. Lombardi in a March 7 letter and that was made available to the press on Monday.
“The Statement that we issued was not a 'request' to the Holy Father for the removal of Archbishop Fisichella as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV). Naming the President and Members of PAV (Servants of Life),” she underscored, “ is the unique province of the Holy Father.”
“Our statement was the clarification of important facts and to correct the false impression of unity conveyed to the press on Feb. 12 by our President,” she emphasized.
Pontifical Academy for Life president 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 report 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.
In her March 7 letter, de Vollmer said that the CDF clarification “gave comfort to those who have sacrificed much to follow the teaching of the Church regarding the sanctity of life, and we considered the matter closed.” However, de Vollmer said that the issue reopened a recent PAV assembly when Archbishop Fisichella “went to lengths to declare that his article had been supported by the CDF 'Clarification.'”
Because of this, “it became evident that the danger of confusion to Catholics everywhere is about to recommence.” “Our Statement,” de Vollmer explained to Fr. Lombardi, “had the effect of making all those faithful who work for the defence of innocent human life understand that he did not speak for the Academy itself.”
“In view of these facts,” de Vollmer concluded, “I formally request, Father Lombardi, that you issue a correction of the false impression of our actions."
Denver, Colo., Mar 8, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver weighed-in today on the recent decision to not re-enroll the child of a lesbian couple in a local Catholic school. The archbishop explained, “If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.”
Staff members at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Boulder, Colorado were told early last week that that an attending preschooler and kindergartner, whose two parents are women, would not be re-enrolled after they finished the 2010-2011 school year.
After mostly negative media coverage, Archbishop Chaput dedicated his weekly column in the Denver Catholic Register to addressing the decision to not offer enrollment to the Boulder, Colo. preschooler.
The Denver archbishop began by discussing the historical background of Catholic schools in America, which he explained were founded in the 19th century “as an alternative to the public schools of the day, which taught a curriculum often hostile to Catholic belief.”
“In many ways times have changed, but the mission of Catholic schools has not,” the prelate stated. “The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values.”
The archbishop explained that “Many of our schools also accept students of other faiths and no faith, and from single parent and divorced parent families. These students are always welcome so long as their parents support the Catholic mission of the school and do not offer a serious counter-witness to that mission in their actions.”
“Our schools, however, exist primarily to serve Catholic families with an education shaped by Catholic faith and moral formation. This is common sense,” he added. “Other religious traditions do the same according to their beliefs, and at a heavy sacrifice. We need to remember that Catholic families pay twice for a Catholic education: through their taxes, they fund public education; then they pay again to send their children to a Catholic school.”
Therefore, the “idea that Catholic schools should require support for Catholic teaching for admission, and a serious effort from school families to live their Catholic identity faithfully, is reasonable and just,” Archbishop Chaput noted.
He also wrote that the “Church never looks for reasons to turn anyone away from a Catholic education. But the Church can’t change her moral beliefs without undermining her mission and failing to serve the many families who believe in that mission.”
“If Catholics take their faith seriously, they naturally follow the teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals; otherwise they take themselves outside the believing community,” he explained.
Archbishop Chaput also stressed that the “Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are 'bad,' or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite. But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.”
“These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society,” he said. “The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
In light of this, the “policies of our Catholic school system exist to protect all parties involved, including the children of homosexual couples and the couples themselves,” said the prelate.
“Our schools are meant to be 'partners in faith' with parents. If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible.”
“It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church,” he added.
Archbishop Chaput concluded his remarks saying that “Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents. That isn’t fair to anyone – including the wider school community.”
“Persons who have an understanding of marriage and family life sharply different from Catholic belief are often people of sincerity and good will. They have other, excellent options for education and should see in them the better course for their children.”
To read Archbishop Chaput's column, visit: http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/3560