Archive of March 22, 2010

Dissident encourages dignity and rights for Cubans

CNA STAFF, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA) - In an interview with CNA, the president of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya reiterated the need for a democratic change in Cuba and called on the international community to support this peaceful struggle without ideological bias.

In the second part of his interview with CNA, Paya spoke of the complicated situation on the island that has caused some to lose hope. “First of all, our call is that people, whether they are believers or not, discover that they have the God-given capacity to be free. That is, they are born free and with rights. We say: Cubans have a right to rights.”

“And we are sowing hope not in a foreign power nor in the demise of a dictator,” but we tell people to “discover your own dignity, discover your own rights and show solidarity out of love for your neighbor.”

“In other words, the source of this liberation is not hatred, nor the desire to destroy others, but rather love, the unselfish love of oneself.”

Referring later to the Varela Project, an initiative of the Christian Liberation Movement, Paya explained that it proposes “asking Cubans in a referendum whether or not they want these changes."  The project, he continued, “is a peaceful path but it gives citizens the power, it gives citizens the ability to participate in public and economic life and vote on changes. Let the people be the ones to decide what is good, what they want, but above all in an atmosphere of reconciliation, in an atmosphere of brotherhood.   This is very important, because we don’t want liberation resulting from a brother against brother confrontation.”

“We don’t see the Christian Liberation Movement as the interpreter of the gospel ... but we do get light from the gospel, recognizing each human being as our brother. For this reason our motto is, ‘Cubans All, Brothers All, and Now Freedom’,” Paya said.

He added that the central point of solidarity lies in “the liberation of all political prisoners. Why? Because they are prisoners for defending these rights. They are prisoners for calling for these peaceful changes, and nothing else.”

“Let us seek out the truth together. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. The truth is in God and we are all children of God.  God gives freedom to human beings – to those who believe or do not believe,” Paya continued.

 “For this reason we speak in terms of liberation, not through violence or through hatred, but through the restoration of liberation, dignity, and the rights of each human being,” he concluded.

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Bishops meet with Argentinian President: the Homeland is a gift, the Nation is a task

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA) - Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez met last week with the Executive Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, led by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.  During the meeting, the bishops gave her a copy of their recently released statement, “The Homeland is a Gift, the Nation is a Task."

In their statement, the bishops urged that “the political and institutional conditions be recreated to allow that the permanent state of confrontation be overcome.”  They then called on all Argentinians, especially their leaders, to act with nobility.

“The celebration of our bicentennial deserves a social and spiritual climate distinct from that which we are experiencing,” the bishops said.

After their meeting with the president, the bishops visited the Senate, where they were met by the Senate leader and vice president of the nation, Julio Cobos.

The bishops’ spokesman, Father Jorge Oesterheld, underscored the importance of the meetings and said the discussions with the vice president were “very good.”

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Pope urges further missionary efforts from African bishops

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Meeting with bishops from Burkina Faso and Niger on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged advancement on the countries' history of more than a century of evangelization. He urged them to continue building on existing missionary work and inter-religious relations.

Benedict XVI met with the bishops, whose countries share an episcopal conference, on Saturday as part of their “ad Limina” visit to the Holy See.

In his address to the group, he urged them to continue to promote evangelization in a “new missionary push” so that the Gospel is “fully received and faithfully lived” in the countries. He called them to stick to the roots of the faith so as to avoid the return to “old practices” that are incompatible with the Jesus’ teachings and to “resist calls from a world at times hostile to the evangelical ideal.”

The Pope went on to encourage them in their missionary efforts regarding the “sister-Churches” of Africa.

In an interview with Fides news agency last week, the President of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Seraphin Rouamba, spoke about the bishops' efforts to circulate missionaries to Niger, Chad, Mali and even to Europe.

Historically, the archbishop said, “people have come from abroad specifically to ring the Gospel” to the area “and to communicate the richness of faith.”

“Now we want to send our missionaries abroad,” he said.

Burkina Faso celebrated the 100-year anniversary of evangelization in the country in the year 2000.

On Saturday, Pope Benedict praised the bishops in their commitment to “combating the evils that impede the population from reaching true development” and recognized the solidarity of the people in response to floods in Sept. 2009 as well as in sending assistance to Haiti, “in spite of their (own) great needs.”

Promotion of the interior renewal of the priestly ministry during the Year for Priests, increased involvement of lay faithful and better formation of catechists were additional points in the Pope’s address. He touched also on the importance of developing educational institutions and giving them responsibility in the Church and society for being “true witnesses of the Gospel.”

Alluding to the peaceful inter-religious relations that normally exist in the countries, the Holy Father asked the bishops to “deepen the bonds of esteem and friendship” to teach new generations that the “fundamental value of respect and fraternity will favor mutual comprehension.”

Referring especially to Muslim-Christian relations, he hoped for the continued reinforcement of relations so as to “progress peace and justice and promote the common good, refuting every temptation of violence or intolerance.”

Archbishop Rouamba told Fides that official statistics estimate that 19-20 percent of the population in Burkina Faso is Catholic, while more than 60 percent is Muslim. Many of the remaining percentage follow traditional religions.

In conclusion, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted their dioceses to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary and imparted his Apostolic Blessing on the bishops and all those under their direction.

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Benedict XVI to send Our Lady of Mt. Carmel statue to earthquake-stricken Chile

Santiago, Chile, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI will present a new statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to Chile during this week’s Wednesday General Audience. The statue will travel throughout the country bringing consolation to those suffering from the devastating February 27 earthquake.

According to a press release, Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, Bishop Alejandro Goic Karmelic of Rancagua and Auxiliary Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales of Valparaiso will be at the audience, where the Pope will bless the statue and present it as a gift to the Church and people of Chile on the occasion of the country’s bicentennial.

The statue will be official delivered to the Chilean prelates by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, during a Mass concelebrated with all the country's bishops during the first week of April. 

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Benedict XVI: Haydn, like Michelangelo, manifests God's law of art

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After having heard the rendition of Franz Joseph Haydn's "The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross " last Friday, Pope Benedict XVI called it "an example among the most sublime, in the musical field, of how art and faith can be wedded." The “austere beauty” of the composition was fitting for the solemnity, he observed, adding that it is well adapted to the Lenten season.

The work was performed in honor of the Holy Father's "name day" on the Solemnity of St. Joseph in the intimate setting of the Clementine Room of the Apostolic Palace.

Qualifying the masterpiece as among the "most sublime" in music in being able to unite art and faith, he said that the composition is "all inspired and almost directly from evangelical texts, that culminate in the words pronounced by crucified Jesus, before rendering his final breath."

Haydn's work, he continued, is like Michelangelo's "Pieta" in its ability to transmit an "absolutely original artistic expression" which, at the same time, is in complete service to a moment of faith.

Haydn's musical piece "conceals a universal rule of artistic expression: that of using a physical medium to communicate a beauty that is also good and true. ... This is the same law that God followed when communicating His love to us: He became incarnate in our human flesh and created the greatest masterpiece of the entire creation: the 'one mediator between God and humankind, the man Jesus Christ.'"

"This law, that is the law of love, is also the law of art in its highest expressions," he related.

Benedict XVI thanked the Lord for "these great artistic geniuses that have known and wanted" to work with "His Word - Jesus Christ - and His words - the Sacred Scriptures."

In Spanish and German, the Holy Father also expressed his gratitude to Maestro Jose Peris Lacasa for his "successful re-elaboration" of Haydn's work, and the Henschel String Quartet and mezzosoprano singer Susanne Kelling for performing it.

Lacasa's version of original work unites Latin texts, which were offered as separate meditations by Haydn, to the seven sonatas of the "The Seven Last Words."

Also present for the concert was Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who addressed the Pope, pointing out the similarities between him and St. Joseph, who was "a meek and humble man, lover of discreet and assiduous work ... a "just man, always attentive to understand and follow the will of God in his life ... totally devoted to service of the Virgin Mary ... and his Son Jesus."

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Collection for Haitian seminary included in Pope’s Holy Week schedule

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pope’s schedule for Holy Week was released by the Holy See on March 22. One unusual addition to the calendar is a special collection on Holy Thursday for the formation of priests in Haiti.

Beginning the solemn week, on Palm Sunday the Holy Father will be in St. Peter’s Square at 9:30 a.m. to bless palms and olive branches during the procession. He will later presiding over the Mass of the Passion of the Lord.

Chrism Mass will be concelebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday in the Vatican Basilica by the Pope and cardinals, bishops and diocesan and religious priests present in Rome. The Vatican statement announcing the details describes this great concelebration as a “sign of the close communion between the Pastor of the Universal Church and his brothers in the priestly ministry.”

Beginning the Paschal Triduum on Thursday evening, the Holy Father will preside over the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Roman Basilica of St. John Lateran at 5:30 p.m. During this celebration, the Pope will wash the feet of 12 priests.

The destination of this year’s collection at the Mass is to help with the reconstruction of the seminary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which had all but one of its buildings destroyed. Collections will be given to the Holy Father at the presentation of the gifts.

Upon the conclusion of the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be brought in procession to the Chapel of Reposition.

The Church recognizes the Paschal Triduum of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection as “the high-point of the whole liturgical year.” The Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its culmination at the Easter Vigil and concludes with Easter Sunday’s Vespers.

On Good Friday, Benedict XVI will preside over the Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross and the Rite of Communion at 5 p.m. at the Vatican Basilica. Later, just after 9 p.m., he will lead the “Way of the Cross” from the Colosseum followed by an address to the faithful and granting of the Apostolic Blessing.

The Easter Vigil will also be celebrated at St. Peter’s, and will begin on Saturday, April 3 at 9 p.m. The Holy Father will bless the new fire in the basilica’s atrium. Following the entrance procession with the Paschal Candle and the singing of the Exsultet, he will preside at the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of Baptism and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Cardinals will also take part as concelebrants.

Easter Day Mass will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI from an altar on the “Sagrato,” the platform on the stairs leading to the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica, at 10:15 a.m. After Mass, from the central “loggia,” above the basilica entryway, the Holy Father will impart his Blessing “Urbi et Orbi.”

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Possibility of new diocese for Medjugorje floated

Rome, Italy, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA) - Following last week's announcement that a commission is being formed to investigate possible Marian apparitions at Medjugorje, a typically well-informed Vatican journalist has reported that a new diocese could be formed in the area to include the Bosnian city. Taking territory currently under the jurisdiction of three other dioceses, including Mostar, where Medjugorje is located, the diocese would “permit a better administration of the flow of pilgrims.”

The veteran Vatican writer Andrea Tornielli reported in the Saturday edition of Il Giornale, an Italian newspaper, of the renewed possibility of the erection of a diocese that would make Medjugorje independent from the Diocese of Mostar, which is run by Bishop Ratko Peric. He has been vocal in his skepticism of the authenticity of the apparitions.

Tornielli wrote that the decision to create the new diocese, with a possible see in Makrska, was nearly made last September, but was put off in part by the opposition of Bishop Peric.

The new diocese would be created from territory currently falling within the dioceses of Dubrovnik, Mostar and Spalato.

Regarding the commission created by the Vatican to investigate the Medjugorje “phenomena” under presidency of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Tornielli has reported that other members include Cardinal Archbishop of Sarajevo Vinko Pulijc, Archbishop Josip Bozanic of Zagreb and Cardinal Julián Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

Tornielli also mentioned that others expected to sit on the commission are Archbishop Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints; Jesuit Father Tony Anatrella, a psychologist, and other experts in “Mariology.” According to his estimation, lay people will also be included in the approximately 20 person commission.

The reporter from Il Giornale wrote that it should be expected that the process of the commission will be slow and its results will not be a statement on the “supernatural nature” of the events, but rather a clearer picture of the “suspended” judgment by Yugoslav bishops after investigations on the matter 20 years ago.

The commission will make sure that there are no “scams, tricks, or diabolical facts” involved and could in addition provide “clear, precise and authoritative directions for pilgrims.”

Tornielli noted that the Holy See has never pronounced a judgement on a case of apparitions that are still in progress.

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Denver archbishop criticizes CHA 'counter-witness' against bishops on health care

Denver, Colo., Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his weekly column for the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver lists several “lessons” Catholics can take from the the health care debates over the past several months.  He notes that the legislation “remains unethical and defective” and expresses his disappointment at the Catholic Health Association's “damaging” efforts in opposing the bishops and supporting the bill.

The first lesson that can be drawn from the recent health care discussions, the prelate explains, is that the Senate bill passed by the House of Representatives “is a failure of decent lawmaking” and remains “unethical and defective on all of the issues pressed by the U.S. bishops and prolife groups for the past seven months.”

The Senate bill was passed in the House 219-212 on Sunday evening after President Obama promised Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that he would issue an executive order banning the federal funding of abortion if Stupak and his pro-life Democratic allies would support the legislation.

Archbishop Chaput points out in his column that although the president promised an executive order, the bill still has problems, “which is why the bishops did not -- and still do not – see it as a real solution.”

“Executive Orders can be rescinded or reinterpreted at any time. Some current congressional leaders have already shown a pattern of evasion, ill will and obstinacy on the moral issues involved in this legislation, and the track record of the White House in keeping its promises regarding abortion-related issues does not inspire confidence,” the archbishop cautions.

“The fact that congressional leaders granted this one modest and inadequate concession only at the last moment, and only to force the passage of this deeply flawed bill, should give no one comfort,” he adds.  

Archbishop Chaput also highlights how the “combination of pressure and disinformation used to break the prolife witness on this bill among Democratic members of Congress – despite the strong resistance to this legislation that continues among American voters – should put an end to any talk by Washington leaders about serving the common good or seeking common ground.”

“At many points over the past seven months, congressional leaders could have resolved the serious moral issues inherent in this legislation.  They did not.  No shower of reassuring words now can wash away that fact.”

The archbishop then laments the harm done by “self-described 'Catholic' groups,” that “ have done a serious disservice to justice, to the Church, and to the ethical needs of the American people by undercutting the leadership and witness of their own bishops.”  He notes that for “groups like Catholics United, this is unsurprising.  In their effect, if not in formal intent, such groups exist to advance the interests of a particular political spectrum.  Nor is it newsworthy from an organization like Network, which – whatever the nature of its good work -- has rarely shown much enthusiasm for a definition of 'social justice' that includes the rights of the unborn child.”

However, he continues, “the actions of the Catholic Health Association (CHA) in providing a deliberate public counter-message to the bishops were both surprising and profoundly disappointing; and also genuinely damaging.

“In the crucial final days of debate on health-care legislation, CHA lobbyists worked directly against the efforts of the American bishops in their approach to members of Congress.  The bad law we now likely face, we owe in part to the efforts of the Catholic Health Association and similar 'Catholic' organizations.” 

Addressing the efforts of the faithful in his archdiocese, the Denver archbishop notes that “many thousands of ordinary, faithful Catholics, from both political parties, have worked hard over the past seven months to advance sensible, legitimate health-care reform; the kind that serves the poor and protects the rights of the unborn child, and immigrants, and the freedom of conscience rights of health-care professionals and institutions.  If that effort seems to have failed, faithful Catholics don’t bear the blame.  That responsibility lies elsewhere.”

“I’m grateful to everyone in the archdiocese who has worked so hard on this issue out of love for God’s people and fidelity to their Catholic faith.  Come good or bad, that kind of effort is never wasted.”

To read Archbishop Chaput's full column, visit:

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Mexican archdiocese notes firm condemnation of abuse by Pope Benedict

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA) - In a press release last week titled, “The Church, Between Trust and Mistrust,” the Archdiocese of Acapulco in Mexico underscored Pope Benedict XVI’s firm rejection of clerical sex abuse and condemned the media campaign attacking the Catholic Church. 

“The cases of sexual abuse by some clergy members in different regions of world, especially in Europe and the United States, have caused much embarrassment and pain,” the statement indicated.  “Pope Benedict XVI has called this repugnant conduct an atrocious crime that must always be condemned, especially when committed by clergymen.” 

After acknowledging that only a few media sources have accurately covered this issue, the press release noted that “reports have maliciously magnified the actions with the intent of discrediting the Church and confusing the faithful.”

Nevertheless, the archdiocese said, this campaign does not appear to have been successful, as recent polls show that the Catholic Church is the institution most trusted by Mexicans, whereas last year it was the third most trusted. 

Despite attacks on the Church, this fact reveals that “many Mexicans of good faith know and appreciate the efforts of the laity, priests and nuns in daily life and in all corners of the country,” concluded the archdiocese.

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Vatican paper editor defends Pope from Fr. Hans Küng's sex abuse criticism

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Gian Vian, the director of L'Osservatore Romano responded last week to an article written by a Swiss priest and theologian aimed at discrediting the Pope and German hierarchy. Vian described the article as “mediocre and of terrible taste” and noted that “it wouldn't deserve a response but as the attacks of the Pontiff are direct and explicit it might be opportune to say some words."

Fr. Hans Küng, an old colleague of Pope Benedict XVI from when they were both Theology professors in Tübingen in the 1960s, wrote an article for last Thursday's edition of Italy’s “La Repubblica” newspaper in which he called for a direct apology to German sex abuse victims from Pope Benedict XVI. He claimed the Holy Father is “the man who has been for decades the main person responsible for the hiding of these abuses on a worldwide level.”

In a seething tone, he denied the Pope's definition of celibacy as a "precious gift" saying that the Pontiff ignores biblical teachings that specifically allow married clergy. He further demanded recognition from German bishops and the Pope for their responsibility in cases of abuse.

In the course of the article, he also specifically denounced the president of the German bishops, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, for his statement that "all experts" exclude the possibility that celibacy is directly related to pedophilia.

Fr. Küng's article was met with a variety of responses on Friday, among them was that of L'Osservatore Romano's director Gian Vian, who was interviewed by “Il Foglio” newspaper.

Vian defended celibacy within the Church saying that in addition to the 11th century reforms that established the vow, it has evident foundations in the Gospel of Matthew (19:11) and First Corinthians (7:1), both which offer "clear words" from the "primordial times" of Christianity.

Regarding the placement of the sexually abusive priest Fr. Peter Hullermann in a parish within the Archdiocese of Munich and Friesing while then-Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge, Vian noted that "the facts didn't take place as Küng and certain press have recounted them." Disobedience of Cardinal Ratzinger's wishes to prohibit the priest from activities in parishes led to the further crimes against young people, Vian explained. Fr. Küng had written that the Pope could not be "exonerated" by the vicar general's full acceptance of responsibility.

Fr. Küng's "attacks" on the Pope and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, according to Vian, appear to have been written more to "uphold stereotypes" than solve any specific questions.

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Obama’s executive order on abortion funding is inadequate fix, pro-life groups say

Washington D.C., Mar 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The executive order promised to reassure pro-life Democrats about the health care reform bill is inadequate and does not address several other pro-abortion provisions, several pro-life groups have charged.

“The executive order promised by President Obama was issued for political effect. It changes nothing. It does not correct any of the serious pro-abortion provisions in the bill. The president cannot amend a bill by issuing an order, and the federal courts will enforce what the law says,” the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) commented on Sunday.

The NRLC cited a March 20 letter to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) by Prof. Robert Destro, a professor of law and former dean of the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.

“Without the Hyde Amendment, abortions not only may be covered, abortions must be covered,” Prof. Destro said about the Senate health care bill.

The NRLC continued: “A lawmaker who votes for this bill is voting to require federal agencies to subsidize and administer health plans that will pay for elective abortion, and voting to undermine longstanding pro-life policies in other ways as well.”

The group said that the executive order does not correct the omission of “necessary conscience protection language” called “Weldon language.”

Other flaws in the legislation, the NRLC argued, create “dangerous regulatory mandate authorities,” revise Indian health programs, and create “pools of directly appropriated funds that are not covered by existing restrictions on funding of abortion.”

“Pro-life citizens nationwide know that this is a pro-abortion bill,” the NRLC continued, saying these citizens will be reminded of which lawmakers voted against the legislation.

On Sunday Americans United for Life (AUL) said its legal team concluded that an executive order is “not an adequate fix to mitigate this legislation's establishment of taxpayer-funded abortion.”

“An executive order, for example, cannot prevent insurance companies that pay for abortions in the exchanges from receiving federal subsidies,” AUL President and CEO Charmaine Yoest said.

Yoest argued that White House assurances to address the problem of abortion funding in the health care bill through an executive order is “an open acknowledgement that the bill just passed is pro-abortion legislation.”

The pro-life group pledged to dismantle taxpayer-funded abortion at the state level and to begin an “aggressive” state-by-state campaign to help states opt out of subsidizing plans that cover abortions through their exchanges.

“Given that seven out of ten voters agree that no public funds should pay for abortion, I am confident that with hard work we will succeed,” Yoest’s statement concluded.

Rep. Bart Stupak has said his coalition of pro-life Democrats would revisit the issue of abortion funding and in health care and subsidized health plans if its implementation does not satisfy them.

“If there was something we missed, we’re coming back with legislative fixes,” he said in a Sunday noon press conference announcing President Obama’s promised executive order and his support for the Senate health care bill.

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