Archive of April 7, 2010

Nurse barred from wearing crucifix loses discrimination claim

London, England, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - A Christian nurse in Britain lost a discrimination claim on Tuesday after fighting a policy that barred her from wearing her crucifix to work.

Shirley Chaplin, 54, was told by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital last year that the crucifix she has worn for almost 40 years on the job without incident needed to be removed for “health and safety reasons.”

Chaplin refused to comply and consequently took the hospital to an Employment Tribunal which ruled on Tuesday that Chaplin is not facing discrimination, as it asserted that all employees are treated equally. Under the Trust's current uniform policy, however, one can wear a hijab for religious reasons but not a cross.

The NHS Trust argued that the crucifix and and chain could cause Chaplin or others harm if a patient caught hold of it, yet the nurse's offer to have a metal clasp inserted on her chain so it could easily be removed in such situations was rejected. The Trust suggested that the nurse wear cross earrings or “hide” the crucifix by pinning it on the inside of her uniform pocket.

Chaplin has worn the crucifix, a gift, since her confirmation in 1971. She intends to appeal Tribunal's ruling.

“I am disappointed, but not at all surprised by the decision of the Tribunal today,” she said in reaction on Tuesday. “It was obvious from the very start that the Trust would use every tactic possible to get itself off the hook. The Trust changed its defense several times and each time we were able to counter it with a sensible argument but this did not prevail. The Trust may have won the legal argument today, but its reputation has been damaged as the moral argument was won before I even entered the Tribunal.”

“I have had a huge amount of support from the British public, many of whom view the actions of the Exeter Trust with amazement,” Chaplin added. “It is extraordinary that the Trust can spend what must be tens of thousands of pounds defending their  position, when at the same time they are making cut backs which affect patients every day.”

“What the Trust doesn’t realize,” the nurse continued, “as it seeks to enforce its uniform policy in the way it has, is that it sends out a very clear message to Christians working in the Trust or considering working for the Trust in the future that they will have to ‘hide’ their faith. The message is clear: Christians whose faith motivates their vocation and care of patients do not appear to be welcome at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust.”

“When employers or Government start to censor the conscience and convictions in this way it is a first step towards the demise of democracy,” she charged.

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, which helped represent Chaplin, said on Tuesday that “The extent to which the Trust is prepared to stop Mrs. Chaplin manifesting her religious beliefs is remarkable. We hope that the Employment Appeal Tribunal will reverse today’s decision and allow Mrs Chaplin to wear her Cross visibly, in the same way that doctors and nurses of other religions can manifest their religious beliefs.”

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Rabbi calls media coverage of Church abuse scandal one-dimensional

Carlstadt, N.J., Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - In an interview with CNA on Tuesday, Rabbi Jack Bemporad commented on the recent media onslaught concerning the Holy Father, calling the coverage “one dimensional” and saying that the depiction of the Church in the media has not been given “proper context.”

Rabbi Bemporad, director of the New Jersey-based Center for Interreligious Understanding, was recently quoted as a lone voice in an Associated Press article in which other Jewish leaders denounced the papal preacher, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, for his comments likening the media depiction of the Church to anti-Semitism.

In the AP article released on April 2, and in a follow up interview with CNA, Rabbi Bemporad defended the papal preacher. Although the rabbi believes Fr. Cantalamessa used a “poor example,” ultimately, the preacher's “point is correct.”

What the preacher intended to indicate through his homily, Rabbi Bemporad said, was that “you can't collectively condemn the church for what some priests and some individuals in the Church may have done.”

Addressing those who have criticized Pope Benedict in recent days, Rabbi Bemporad stated that “you've got to have a sense of compassion, charity, and saying 'how can we help you do this properly?' Instead of condemning him and saying, 'See, you're not doing enough.'”

“We're so quick to judge, we're so quick to condemn,” he stressed. “There's no charity, there's no compassion, no sympathy, and no, by the way, self-criticism.”

A lot of sex abuse involving children is going on, the rabbi noted. “It's not simply a Catholic problem.” 

“I do think that the pope is trying to do the best he can,” he added.

The rabbi also took a jab at the media coverage of the Pope, calling it “very one dimensional” and charging that many of the reports have not placed Vatican actions “in the proper context.”

“The tragedy of the media,” Rabbi Bemporad stated, “is that it has a capacity to educate, instead what it does is cater to the worst element in human beings. The most voyeuristic element.”

“We shouldn't be so quick to grab at headlines which are virulent, and in my opinion, hysterical,” he asserted.

The New Jersey rabbi also praised Pope Benedict for his efforts in helping advance the relationship between the two faiths, saying the pontiff has “tried to be a friend” and has done whatever he can “to show the close relationship between Catholics and Jews.”

“All I am asking for is charity,” and “that we should think about how we can help one another not condemn one another,” said the rabbi.

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Abuse docs provided to NY Times by lawyer trying to sue the Vatican

New York City, N.Y., Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - Claims that Pope Benedict declined to defrock a Milwaukee priest who molested deaf students rely upon documents supplied by a leading lawyer in lawsuits against the Catholic Church, Bill McGurn reports. He charges that the New York Times did not sufficiently disclose this connection and advises more “journalistic skepticism” about the narrative of an attorney who stands to make millions.

The attorney in question has charged that Pope Benedict is the head of an “international conspiracy” to cover up crimes and evade the law.

In a Tuesday essay in the Wall Street Journal, writer and news executive William McGurn responded to two Times articles by Laurie Goodstein, “Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Deaf Boys" published in print March 25 and “Events in the Case of an Accused Priest” printed on April 1.

He notes the internal church documents cited by Goodstein and posted on the Times website were reportedly provided by Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan. The two are described by the Times as “lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.”

But, McGurn wrote, Goodstein did not tell readers that Anderson is not “just any old lawyer.”

“When it comes to suing the Church, he is America's leading plaintiff’s attorney. Back in 2002, he told the Associated Press that he'd won more than $60 million in settlements from the Church, and he once boasted to a Twin Cities weekly that he's ‘suing the s--t out of them everywhere.’”

McGurn also charged that the Times did not report the “salient fact” that Anderson is now trying to sue the Vatican in U.S. federal court.

“None of this makes Mr. Anderson wrong or unworthy of quoting,” he said in his Wall Street Journal piece. “It does make him a much bigger player than the story disclosed. In fact, it's hard to think of anyone with a greater financial interest in promoting the public narrative of a church that takes zero action against abuser priests, with Pope Benedict XVI personally culpable.”

According to McGurn, when asked about the omissions in an e-mail, Goodstein replied:

“Given the complexity of the Murphy case, and the relative brevity of my story, I don't think it is realistic for you to expect this story to get into treating other cases that these attorneys have handled."

The website of Jeff Anderson & Associates, P.A. contains many press releases and news articles about clerical sexual abuse allegations.

The website announces a March 25 press conference on “long-hidden Catholic Church records” obtained in the case of Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who was accused of abusing some 200 deaf students at between the 1950s and the 1970s.

The press release refers to the New York Times story of the day and presents a critical interpretation of the Vatican’s handling of the case.

“The Documents seriously undermine the Pope’s credibility by revealing that the Pope and top aide kept 150 sex allegations vs. predator secret in 1998, and rebuffed 3 bishops who wanted the pedophile priests ousted,” the firm claims.

The law firm’s website also reproduces a St. Paul Pioneer Press article on the March 25 news conference which gives lengthy coverage to Anderson and his client’s charges. The official Catholic response is presented only in one sentence describing a reaction from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

According to the Pioneer Press, Anderson charged that the Pope along with his predecessors was"the mastermind, head, of an international conspiracy to cover up their own crimes and keep them above the law."

Donald Marshall, who has accused Fr. Murphy of kissing him and attempting to fondle him when he was a teenager at Lincoln Hills Boys Home in Irma, Wisconsin, also spoke at the press conference.

Now 45, Marshall said he was shocked when he was told that “then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — had a chance to defrock Murphy but instead did nothing,” the Pioneer Press says.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger "may have not fondled me, but he's no different because he allowed it to happen," Marshall said, according to the Pioneer Press.

In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger was not appointed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) until 1981, well after the abuse took place.

His office addressed sexual abuse cases only when it involved abuse of the confessional until 2001, when it took over abuse cases from the Roman Rota. Allegations against Murphy came to the CDF’s attention in 1996 because of claims he abused the confessional.

The documents provided to the New York Times by Anderson and Finnegan, as well as the Times’ interpretation of them, have been called into question.

The documentation included the minutes of a key Vatican meeting between three Wisconsin bishops and CDF Secretary Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone. However, the same documentation revealed that these Italian-language minutes were translated “very roughly” into English using a computer translator.

Properly translated, the minutes show that the Vatican never ruled out the laicization of the priest, but a lack of records from the archdiocese created barriers to a canonical trial.

In his Wall Street Journal essay, McGurn provided additional documentation challenging the Times’ claims that the priest was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system. In fact, Fr. Murphy was stripped of his priestly faculties, a process McGurn declares the equivalent of taking away a doctor’s medical license.

McGurn challenged the press to continue examining the “hard questions” about Catholic prelates’ action in the Murphy case. However, he suggested reporters provide “some context, and a bit of journalistic skepticism about the narrative of a plaintiff’s attorney making millions off these cases.”

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Holy See confirms sexually abusive Norwegian bishop no longer ministering

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Federico Lombardi released a statement from the Holy See’s Press Office confirming the report by a Norwegian television network that a bishop who stepped down last June had sexually abused a minor in the 1990s. The Vatican spokesman said that the matter “was confronted and examined quickly” after it came to light in January 2009.

The former Bishop of the Prelature of Trondheim, Norway, Georg Mueller, admitted to the Norwegian state television network NRK that the reason for his resignation in June 2009 was his sexual involvement with a minor before he became the head of the prelature, Italy’s ANSA news reported on Wednesday.

Fr. Lombardi confirmed the accuracy of the information released by the Bishop of Oslo and Apostolic Administrator of Trondheim, Bernt Eidsvig, concerning the situation.

Lombardi said that after ecclesiastical authorities became aware of the matter in Jan. 2009, “the matter was confronted and examined quickly through the Nunciature of Stockholm, by mandate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

In May, the bishop tendered his resignation, which the Vatican spokesman notes was accepted immediately by Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Mueller left the diocese officially in June and went into therapy. Fr. Lombardi confirmed that he is no longer carrying out pastoral activities.

The statement from the Holy See also said that by Norwegian law the case has surpassed the statute of limitations and that the victim has always asked to remain anonymous.

Italian news reports quote Bishop Eidsvig as having said that “even if the case can no longer be the object of an investigation” by Norwegian law, the law of the Church remains valid and this is the reason for which today Mueller won’t recover any position.”

Bishop Mueller was the head of the prelature of Trondheim from 1997-2009.

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Pope Benedict exhorts all Christians to proclaim 'He is Risen!'

Vatican City, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - “Christ is truly risen!” exclaimed the Holy Father again from St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. The Pope spoke to pilgrims at the General Audience about the extraordinary event of Easter and the call for all Christians to be inspired in their proclamation of the “good news.”

Wednesday’s audience was “inundated by the luminous joy of Easter,” observed the Pope during his address to the more than 21,000 people gathered in the Square, still decorated with tens of thousands of Dutch flowers and plants remaining from Easter celebrations.

In these days and until Pentecost, the Pope said, “the Church celebrates the mystery of the Resurrection and experiences the great joy that comes from the good news of the triumph of Christ over evil and over death.”

“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!" is the “good news” that continues to be passed from generation to generation, he told the crowd.

Easter is an “absolutely extraordinary event,” said the Holy Father, calling it “the most beautiful and mature fruit of the 'mystery of God'. ... Yet it is also a real historical fact, witnessed and documented. It is the event upon which all our faith rests. It is the central point in which we believe and the principal reason for which we believe.”

The “divine mandate” of transmitting the news that “He is risen,” which is entrusted to the women in the Gospel accounts who act as “messengers,” is also meant for us, said Pope Benedict XVI.

“Yes, dear friends, all our faith is founded on the constant and faithful transmission of this ‘good news.’”

We are all called to be “enthusiastic and courageous” in our witness to this Good News, he continued. “This is the precise, demanding and exciting mandate of the risen Lord.”

“The ‘news’ of new life in Christ must shine in the life of the Christian, it must be alive and working in who bears it, truly able to change the heart, the entire existence,” the Pope exhorted.

As St. Mark wrote at the end of his Gospel, the Holy Father recalled, the Apostles go out and preach with the help of the Lord “who confirmed the message by the signs which accompanied it.”

We are called still today to be “announcers” said the Pope, “We also, in fact, are certain that the Lord, today as yesterday, works together with his witnesses.”

The fact that he accompanies us can be recognized when we push for lasting peace, provide an example inspired by respect for justice, work without ulterior interests and make sacrifices personally and as a community, said the Pope.

“Unfortunately,” the Pope lamented, “we see in the world also so much suffering, so much violence, so much incomprehension. The Celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the joyous contemplation of the Resurrection of Christ, who defeats sin and death with the force of God’s Love is a propitious occasion to rediscover and profess with greater conviction our faith in the Risen Lord, who accompanies witnesses of his word working marvels alongside them.

“We will be truly and fully witnesses of Risen Jesus,” taught Pope Benedict, “when we let the marvel of his love shine through in us; when in our words and, even more, in our actions, in full coherence with the Gospel, the voice and the hand of Jesus himself is recognized.”

Following the audience, the Holy Father was taken back to his residence at Castel Gandolfo by helicopter to continue resting after finishing a busy Easter schedule.

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New Catholic TV station launches in Pakistan

Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - “Good News” is the name of a new Catholic satellite channel launched by the Archdiocese of Karachi in Pakistan on March 31.  The new station will be available via satellite throughout Asia, Africa, Oceania and Europe.

Archbishop Evarist Pinto of Karachi attended a special ceremony for the launch and congratulated the director of the channel, Fr. Arthur Charles as well as his staff.  “In the age of the media, the Lord has given us this chance to make his message known to all,” the archbishop said.

“We want to bring love, harmony and fraternity.  We have good news, we have the message of Jesus Christ, which is for everyone, and we want to spread it so the people can learn to live in harmony,” he added.

Fr. Charles explained that the programming would include daily Mass, the Rosary, the lives of the saints, news, educational programs, music and entertainment.  “This is not just another channel following the status quo, but rather we are here to make a difference and give the country first-class programs,” he said.

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Jewish columnist: Campaign against Pope is a mere sales gimmick

Madrid, Spain, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - Jewish poet, novelist and essayist Jon Juaristi published an article on Easter Sunday in the Spanish daily ABC asserting that “it is not necessary to be Catholic” to understand the motives behind the recent attacks on Pope Benedict XVI and the Church.  He remarked that the campaign is merely a sales gimmick aimed at getting Catholics out of the public square.

In his article, Juaristi wrote that he wants to address the media attacks on the Pope since an increasing number of “journalists and independent bloggers now expect the Pope to submit his resignation.” 

These people have a greater "fascination with the idea of a hypothetical papal resignation, than with the very acts of pedophilia committed by priests,” he said remarking that their intentions are “merely an excuse to corner Benedict XVI.”

“And only the Pope and the Church have taken this issue seriously.  By exploiting the scandal, the tabloids only seek more sales and progressives seek to remove Catholics from the public square, or at least destroy the reputation of clergy if the campaign can’t do the former,” he said.

“In case I haven’t said it enough,” he continued, “I am not Catholic, but even I am not blind to the immense moral stature of the current Pontiff in comparison to his present-day swarm of detractors, who are a bunch of harassers.”

Ever since the release of the Holy Father’s letter to Irish Catholics, Juaristi pointed out, the target of the attacks are no longer the pedophile priests and the bishops who covered them up,  but rather the Pope himself.  “Since it seems in this case that the principle of 'strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered' is not going to work, it is likely that this campaign will drag on for some time and that the stage will be  filled … with spontaneous individuals who recount what they suffered from the pedophile priest in question,” he said.

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Sins of priests cannot be applied to entire Church, cardinal says of abuses

Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, voiced his support and solidarity with Pope Benedict on Tuesday. The prelate underscored that, as Jesus was not at fault for the betrayal of Judas, neither are Pope Benedict XVI or bishops to be blamed for the "grave faults" of priests.

Speaking to the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano in Rome, the cardinal explained that "before these unjust attacks we were told that we are making mistakes in strategy, that we should react differently. The Church has its own style and does not adopt the methods that are being used against the Pope today.

"The only strategy we have comes to us from the Gospel," he said.

The dean of the College of Cardinals went on to say that the Christian community feels "justly hurt" when attempts are made to involve it en masse "in the grave and painful acts of some priests, transforming individual fault and responsibility into collective fault.”

He later underlined that "if any minister has been unfaithful, you can't and you shouldn't generalize.

"Certainly, we suffer, and Benedict XVI has asked forgiveness many times," he noted. "But it is not Christ's fault if Judas has betrayed (him). It is not a bishop's fault if one of his priests has stained himself with grave faults.

"And surely the Pontiff is not responsible," said Cardinal Sodano.

The cardinal also explained why he spoke out on behalf of the "people of God" in support and admiration of the Pope before this past Sunday's Mass.

The Easter Liturgy, he said, offered a good occasion to "reaffirm the deep relations of unity that hold all members of the Church close to him who the Holy Spirit has put in place to guide the community of believers."

Cardinal Sodano also expressed the support of the College of Cardinals and the world's 400,000 priests for the Holy Father, referring to a passage from John's Gospel for inspiration: "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

The cardinal said he feels "a duty to recognize Benedict XVI for the apostolic devotion with which he gives his daily service to the Church.

"My words were born also of a personal demand, from the profound affection that I hold for the Vicar of Christ."

Cardinal Sodano said that "in addition to offering a witness of closeness to the Pope," his words of support "were an invitation to serenity. It is a call that the Pope himself, firstly and continuously, makes to the Church and to the world, following his grand predecessors on the chair of Peter."

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Paya challenges liberation theologian to debate over peaceful changes in Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, has invited Brazilian liberation theologian Alberto Libanio Christo (Frei Betto) to debate the need for peaceful changes in Cuba.

In an article, Paya wrote that he is willing to debate the controversial friar who has previously expressed his support for the Castro regime.

Paya then criticized Frei Betto for being a “man of the palace” who does not defend the people, “but rather the minority status of those in power.”  “Betto,” he added, “hides the intent of the Communist regime to de-Christianize our lives and our culture.”

He called the liberation theologian “the antithesis of liberation, as he has spread the doctrine of submission and aligned believers with totalitarianism as a condition for the respect of religious worship.”

“With his support for the repressive regime, he does not defend law or freedom of conscience, but rather denies the rights of human begins whose source is the first freedom ... the freedom of the children of God,” he added.

Paya concluded, “If Frei Betto wants to serve the cause of justice and peace, let him promote dialogue among Cubans, without exclusions, as free men and women.”

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Cardinal Bertone defends himself, Pope from accusations

Santiago, Chile, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - “Benedict XVI is a strong Pope,” declared Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Tuesday from the southern hemisphere. Beginning a trip in Chile, the prelate told members of the press that claims he and the Pope blocked the case of the Wisconsin priest Fr. Lawrence Murphy are unfounded.

Upon arriving at the airport in Santiago, Chile to begin a nine-day tour of the South American nation, Cardinal Bertone told journalists that “Benedict XVI is a strong Pope, the Pope of the third millenium, the entire Church supports him,” according to Italian bishops' daily newspaper Avvenire. Cardinal Bertone added that this support could be seen on Easter in St. Peter’s Square, which was full of many young people that day.

The prelate attempted to steer conversation back to the moment, saying, “Let’s speak of Chile, let’s speak of the future."

The Vatican's Secretary of State will be in Chile until April 14 to mark the 200th anniversary of the nation, bring comfort after the recent earthquake and to meet with the local Church.

He referred to the Pope as a “great prophet of the third millenium," and denied any involvement of either himself or then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in keeping Fr. Lawrence Murphy from being brought to justice for sexual abuse of minors.

On Monday, Italy’s AGI reprinted a German weekly Die Zeit report that claims Cardinal Bertone “stopped” proceedings in 1998 against the priest because it would have been difficult to maintain “absolute secrecy" or gather proof “without increasing the scandal.”

Cardinal Bertone flatly denied the accusations on Tuesday, “It’s not true, it’s not true. We have documented the contrary and let’s not talk about this subject now, because otherwise we’ll be here all day precisely examining the action” of the congregation in those days.

“Enough, enough on this subject,” he told them.

On Wednesday, Cardinal Bertone will be received at the presidential palace, “La Moneda,” by the newly elected President Sebastian Pinera.

Other events during the tour include the celebration of Mass in the atrium of the cathedral in the devastated city of Concepcion and the delivery of a statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, patroness of Chile, which was blessed by the Pope at an audience last month. The statue will be carried to every diocese in the country.

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Zero tolerance for abuse, Mexican bishops reiterate

Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - The Mexican bishops’ conference published a statement on its website this week reiterating the Church's zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse and expressing solidarity with the Holy Father.

“The homily given by Cardinal Norberto Rivera at the Cathedral during the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday leaves no room for doubt,” the bishops' conference states.  “Before a large number of priests, religious and laity (the cardinal) reiterated what he and other bishops have said on various occasions regarding the issue of pedophilia - zero tolerance.”

“In addition, and this must be emphasized, the cardinal calls on all people to notify civil and church authorities if they learn of this kind of abuse.”

The bishops continue by noting that the problem has “already arisen and today no bishop anywhere in the world would engage in any kind of shady deal making.”  They explain that in the past, although it's no justification, the prelates “did not have the tools to confront these problems related to pedophilia or priestly celibacy.”

“The documents the Holy Father has issued in this regard, the norms that the bishops have established in their respective dioceses, and the material published by the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico, have changed things today and made it possible to talk about this issue and discuss it with complete clarity,” the statement says.

It also stresses that those who have committed acts of sexual abuse must be brought to justice and laments cases in which innocent priests have been falsely accused.

“The bishops will not act based on rumors or gossip, they will act in justice when the facts are presented and allow both the victims and the accused to be heard in accord with civil and ecclesiastical law,” the statement indicates.

It also acknowledges that there are organizations and people who are determined to tarnish the image of the Pope. “We don’t know what motives are driving them, but one thing is clear.  All of this has helped us to rally around the Holy Father and accept, not without sorrow, these cases that have stained the image of the Church.  But we are certain that the Lord will use this 'Way of the Cross' to purify the institution that is founded in Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

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Decision to transfer Padre Pio's body causes a stir

Rome, Italy, Apr 7, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Capuchin friars of San Giovanni Rotondo have announced that St. Pio of Pietrelcina's body will be moved into the new church, adjacent to his current resting place on the Monastery grounds. Against the wishes of some, the transfer will take place on the afternoon of April 19.

The destination of St. Pio's body is the crypt of the new St. Pio Church. Adorned with mosaics that Pope Benedict described as "of an extraordinary beauty" when he blessed the church last June, the crypt will house the mortal remains of the Capuchin saint. Padre Pio's body has been in the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie since he was interred there in 1968.

Archbishop Michele Castoro of Manfredonia, Vieste, and San Giovanni Rotondo announced the date of the transfer along with other civil and religious leaders at a press conference on Wednesday.

News of the possible relocation has caused resistance from some. There are those against it because it falls on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's election, others who say it will interfere with the election of a new superior within the Capuchin order in the area, and those who say that the new church is too luxurious for the simple friar.

Lawyer Francesco Traversi, president of the Pro Padre Pio Association, told the Italian publication La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno ahead of today's announcement that if the rumors were true it would be a "seriously offensive" action. A case brought by the association and a relative of St. Pio's to block the transfer of the body and verify that the body in the crypt is really that of the Capuchin friar is set to be reviewed by a local tribunal on April 22.

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Catholics Come Home to launch organization to encourage priests

Atlanta, Ga., Apr 7, 2010 (CNA) - A new Catholic lay organization called launched on Holy Thursday, April 1, to support clergy.

“Countless priests deserve our true gratitude and love, as so many lead sacrificial and humble lives. These noble men of God need our encouragement and could be uplifted by a simple prayer and a gentle word of appreciation from us,” said Tom Peterson, founder of the group.

In a press release said billions of people have witnessed the service and dedication of Catholic priests throughout the centuries.

“Some recall the heroic and sacrificial example of military chaplains, priests who serve in nursing homes and hospitals, fathers who feed the poor, pastors who serve as peacemakers during marriage counseling, or priests who have celebrated a family wedding or funeral Mass.”

The group claimed that the secular media is “laser-focused” on “a handful of wayward priests who have betrayed Jesus and the teachings of His Church.”

“But millions of faithful priests and bishops serve as heroic shepherds of their flocks, leading rewarding and spirit-filled lives of service to others.”

The website is currently in development. The group says the site will help Catholics offer gifts of prayer, e-cards, printable greeting cards, video messages and blogs to show their gratitude and appreciation for priests.

The effort was established by Catholics Come Home, an organization which encourages lapsed Catholics to return to regular practice of their faith. Like Catholics Come Home, plans to air TV commercials supporting the humanitarian efforts of priests and encouraging more vocations.

The site is scheduled to launch on June 20, Father’s Day.

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