Johannesburg, South Africa, May 6, 2010 (CNA) -
The South African Bishops Conference announced today that the relics of St. Thèrése of Lisieux will be in South Africa during the upcoming FIFA Football World Cup.
From June 27 to July 12, the relics of St. Thèrése will travel around South Africa's capital Johannesburg, corresponding with the time frame of the international sports event.
“The whole Church of South Africa is expressing the hope that the coming of the Relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux will inspire people, strengthen their faith, and challenge all of us to live our faith and follow our vocations/callings as St Thérèse did,” the bishops said in a statement on Wednesday.
The news of the visit was reported on the South African bishops Church on the Ball website, which is dedicated to promoting a Catholic presence during the World Cup.
According to the bishops, the initiative to host the relics came from the Catholic youth at the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, who revere St. Therese for her “Little Way” and were inspired by the fact that the saint is one of the youngest in Church history.
A junior choir at St. Francis of Assisi plans to welcome the relics with a song referencing the World Cup, titled “Pass the Ball to Life.”
After residing in Johannesburg, the relics will travel “The Saint Therese Route,” stopping in the South African provinces of Limpopo, Gauteng, Free State, Eastern Cape, and Western Cape. The French saint's relics will remain in South Africa until the end of September.
The bishops are encouraging Catholic schools and parishes in each region to greet the relics with special events and programs that will enrich “the spiritual and social” aspects of the Catholic community.
Mosul, Iraq, May 6, 2010 (CNA) -
After a recent bomb blast and gun attack in Iraq that targeted Christian students, a local bishop has criticized the government for failing to protect Christians, who are suffering from a series of violent attacks by terrorist groups.
Archbishop Georges Casmoussa, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Wednesday that the Christian community is “angry” following the recent attacks, and that local authorities “are too busy holding meetings” to get much of anything done.
On Sunday, a bomb targeted a convoy of buses carrying Christian students between checkpoints on the edge of Mosul. One male student died instantly and two young women are said to be in critical condition. The bishop gave his remarks to ACN following a trip to the local hospital, where he visited 163 of the individuals injured in the attack. Fifteen students, said the prelate, will have to be transferred to a hospital in Turkey.
“We feel angry about what happened – and we are full of sadness for those who have suffered so much,” Archbishop Casmoussa said. “We feel there is no central power here. The authorities are too busy holding meetings and not enough is being done.”
Citing local authorities' failure to effectively collaborate, the archbishop stated that the “army is not close to the government, the government is not close with the police.”
“You have people who are responsible but they are not coordinated in their actions and this opens the door to terrorists,” he explained.
Speaking on the possible corruption among local leaders, the prelate claimed that some “politicians are involved in the actions of terrorists and sometimes murders take place in the name of political parties.”
On the lack of follow through in the cases of convicted terrorists, Archbishop Casmoussa said, “We hear that people who have killed Christians are in prison but legal judgments are not being brought against them.”
“We call on the central government to find those responsible, to judge them and to try them according to international law,” he appealed. “This judgment must be open and known by the people. We ask the UN – and the US, who are masters of the situation – to help the minorities, especially Christians.”
ACN reported that the violence against Christians in Iraq can be traced back to 2004 as part of a widely understood and coordinated effort on the part of militants to extinguish Christianity from the country.
Kathmandu, Nepal, May 6, 2010 (CNA) - After three days of general strikes in Nepal, local Christians have begun praying the Rosary for national peace.
The country’s Maoist opposition called the general strike, which has reduced traffic in the capital and stopped public transport and commercial activity. Shops, schools, offices and factories are closed.
Thousands of Maoist demonstrators from across the country have entered the city, staging peaceful protests with anti-government slogans and chants.
Fr. Pius Perumana, pro-vicar apostolic of Nepal, told Fides that while events have been peaceful so far “the situation could deteriorate at any moment.”
The protests have stopped Church activity and missionary work and schools have had to close.
“One of our priests, Fr. Richard Vas, was stopped while riding a motor cycle and threatened, but fortunately the police intervened and he was rescued,” he added.
Bishop Anthony Sharma, the apostolic prefect of Nepal, has rallied Catholic parishes, schools and religious communities to hold daily recitations of the Rosary throughout May and to hold Eucharistic Adoration at least one hour every week.
He has asked them to pray “for national peace, and for a successful drafting and approval of a new Constitution without violence.”
According to Fr. Perumana, the Catholic Church in Nepal has called on the faithful to “live these days with serenity, and with the optimism of faith and hope, to recite a daily Rosary throughout the month of May, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The priest reported that Catholics are praying to the Virgin Mary to “intercede that peace may prevail and bloodshed be avoided, that our rulers may be illuminated and reach a political compromise to end the crisis.”
The Maoist party holds the majority in the constituent assembly. It has called for the government to step down so that it may be replaced by a national unity coalition tasked with launching the new constitution.
It also advocates that this proposed coalition accelerate the peace process begun in 2006 following the popular revolt which brought down the Nepalese monarchy.
Madison, Wis., May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Reporting a “pro-life victory,” pro-life leaders in Wisconsin have praised the Madison Surgery Center’s (MSC) abandonment of its plans to perform late-term abortions.
The MSC is a joint partnership between Meriter Hospital, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation. At a February 2009 meeting its board voted to allow late-term abortions.
The Center was the target of pro-life petition drives and television commercials opposing the plan to provide late-term abortions.
“It is my understanding based on recent information from the UW (University of Wisconsin) that they have now abandoned plans to provide late-term abortion services at MSC,” Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter said in a letter to an Eau Claire attorney who asked for an investigation of UW for violating the law by promoting and being involved in the late-term abortion plan.
Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, reacted to the news.
“We give credit first and foremost to God for this pro-life victory,” she commented. “Pro-life grassroots activism works.”
Hamill said in a press release that thousands of people attended “countless” prayer vigils, tens of thousands of people signed a pro-life petition, and hundreds of pro-life television commercials aired in the Madison area. Hundreds of people also boycotted the MSC.
“We have maintained a daily prayer presence outside the MSC, and our NoUWabortions.com website has served as a virtual hub of resistance,” she added.
Virginia Zignego, Pro-Life Wisconsin communications director and a UW-Madison alumna, said her group was “happy” to announce the end of its boycott.
“When we kill babies, it is a failure of our health care system and a failure of our intellects. When we kill babies it is a sign that consciences are dead. When consciences are dead, there is no limit to what we will do.”
New York City, N.Y., May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Most churchgoing Catholics say their feelings about the Church are unaffected by the Vatican’s handling of recent child sex abuse reports. Among all Catholics, more have a favorable opinion of Pope Benedict XVI now than they did in March. They tend to believe the media reports are blown out of proportion and harder on the Church than others.
The CBS News / New York Times poll split respondents among weekly Mass attendees, all Catholics, and all Americans. Answers from all respondents are thus weighted by differences in Catholic responses.
Weekly massgoers are about evenly split in their opinion of the Vatican’s handling of child sex abuse by priests, with 45 percent saying it is doing a good job. About 58 percent of all Catholics and 66 percent of all American respondents said it is not.
About 77 percent of weekly churchgoers said the Vatican’s handing of recent child sex abuse report has had no effect on their feelings about the Catholic Church, while 69 percent of all Catholics and 52 percent of total respondents said the same. About 20 percent of all Catholics and 36 percent of all respondents said it has made them feel more negative.
Considering their views of Pope Benedict, 43 percent of Catholics say they have a favorable opinion of the Pontiff, compared to 27 percent in March 2010. Unfavorable views increased from 11 percent to 17 percent. Among all respondents, 16 percent reported favorable views, 24 percent reported unfavorable views and 59 percent said they were unsure.
Asked whether the Vatican is mainly trying to prevent child sex abuse or cover up the problem, 75 percent of Catholics and 50 percent of all respondents said the Vatican presently aimed at prevention, while 33 percent of Americans thought cover-ups continued.
However, 74 percent of Catholics and slightly more overall respondents thought the Vatican tried to cover up the problem in the past.
According to the poll, about half of all Catholic respondents thought the Vatican’s response was better now, though half of all respondents thought there was no difference in the U.S. bishops’ response.
On the matter of perceived media bias, about 58 percent of weekly massgoers said the reports were blown out of proportion. About 46 percent of all Catholics agreed, but only 30 percent of Americans overall did. A reported 53 percent of American respondents thought the reports were accurate.
Asked whether the media has been harder or easier on the Catholic Church compared to other religions, 75 percent of regular massgoers, 64 percent of all Catholics, and 34 percent of all respondents thought it was harder on the Church. About 51 percent of total respondents said the media treated the Catholic Church the same as it treats other religions.
About one in ten Catholics said recent abuse reports led them to question whether they would remain in the Church, while slightly more said the reports affected their donations. Almost all Catholics said the reports have not affected whether they are comfortable around their own parish priest.
Asked to name factors contributing to clerical sexual abuse, about 30 percent of Catholic respondents each named celibacy and homosexuality as major factors. More than half of the respondents thought the male-only priesthood was not a factor.
The CBS News / New York Times poll claimed a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Mexico City, Mexico, May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In a recent interview on Mexican radio, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez of Guadalajara - a possible candidate to assume the reins of the Legion of Christ according to Vatican analyst Sandro Magister - said the founder of the Legionaries, Father Marcial Maciel, was a man suffering from mental issues.
Cardinal Sandoval deplored the “criminal” conduct of Maciel and said “nobody approves” of what the priest did.
Asked about possibly being appointed apostolic commissioner for the troubled order, the prelate said he would prefer not to have the post, but would accept if asked by the Holy Father. Cardinal Sandoval added that a bishop with experience in religious life would be better suited for the task rather than a member of the diocesan clergy.
In the cardinal’s opinion, Maciel was a “schizophrenic with a very well-defined double personality,” with one life inside the Church and a radically different life outside.
Madrid, Spain, May 6, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - Some 60 young people from pro-life organizations in Madrid took part in a march against abortion in the Spanish capital this week, calling on the government to provide more assistance to families and to reverse the country's new law on abortion.
Jose Maria Blanco, who directs the Nasciturus pro-life organization, told Europa Press the march was the “climax” of a year of activities the pro-life groups have carried out.
The young people at the march all wore t-shirts with a picture of Martin Luther King and words, “Have a Dream Today,” to underscore that they are struggling “for the same things as King, which are the rights of the human person.”
Blanco said that while King’s fight was against racial discrimination, today the discrimination is against “the unborn and pregnant woman,” who “are not offered any alternatives to abortion and are pushed to accepted it.”
“This is going to impact the future and is already impacting the moral idea of man that society and the economy have,” he added.
Blanco said young people reject Spain’s new law on abortion, as well as the manipulation, irresponsibility and sex-ed policies of the government, which he explained, does not pay attention to the people. “Society has never asked for measures such as this law on abortion or for the teaching of kids to masturbate.”
Vatican City, May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy Father joined in the celebration of the birthday of the former rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, with a telegram on Monday. He recalled the rabbi's role in history of the Jewish community of Rome, his work towards improving inter-religious relations and his friendship with John Paul II.
Pope Benedict's message was read aloud by his personal secretary Msgr. George Ganswein during the ceremony to inaugurate the new Elio Toaff Foundation for Hebrew Culture in Rome.
The Holy Father stated his wish to join all those who celebrated the gifts with which "the mercy of the Most High" has blessed Rabbi Toaff along the course of his 95 years.
"I think, using the expressions of the Psalm, how the Lord restored your soul, leading you along the right path, even through the darkest valley, at the time of the persecution and extermination of the Jewish People.
"The Lord, in His mysterious plans, wished you to have a unique experience of His salvation, becoming a sign of hope for the rebirth of many of your brothers and sisters."
Rabbi Toaff was remembered by the president of the Jewish Community of Rome, Riccardo Pacifici, on the same day, as "the man that made the history of our century" and revived the community after the Holocaust.
Elio Toaff was the chief rabbi of Rome for 50 years, from 1951 to 2001.
The Pope wrote to the rabbi that he was particularly pleased to recall his "commitment to promoting fraternal relations between Catholics and Jews, and the sincere friendship that bound you to my venerated predecessor Pope John Paul II."
The telegram concluded with Benedict XVI’s hope that the words from Psalm 23 would be fulfilled for Rabbi Toaff, that "Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."
Vatican City, May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Pontifical Swiss Guard swore in 30 new recruits during a ceremony on an overcast Thursday evening at the Vatican. The event also commemorated the 147 guards who died defending the Pope during the Sack of Rome in 1527.
Gathering at 5 p.m. in the San Damaso courtyard under the threat of rain, the Swiss Guard held its annual swearing-in ceremony. Vatican Radio reported on Thursday that the 30 new “halberdiers” who enlisted in the last 12 months made their final vows during the ceremony. As part of the ritual, the new recruits lined up and raised three fingers in the air – a traditional sign of oath to the corps.
On Thursday morning, the guard, their families and friends attended a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State.
“The Pontifical Swiss Guard is characterized by the willingness of its members to place themselves in service of the Supreme Pontiff, to provide for the particular care of His person,” Cardinal Bertone said at Mass earlier in the day. This willingness, added the prelate, is something that “you – dear Swiss Guards – have expressed as Christians, that is, motivated by love for Christ and for the Church.”
“For this we are gathered here in the Eucharistic celebration: to pronounce our thanks to the Lord for your generosity.”
“Yours, dear friends of the Swiss Guard, is a skilled and appreciated service, that demands dedication and seriousness,” Cardinal Bertone said. “Being Swiss Guards means always adhering without reservation to Christ and the Church, with the willingness to spend every day of your life for this noble mission.”
The Swiss Guard is an elite force charged throughout the centuries with the task of safeguarding the Pope. The recruits, per guard requirements, must be between 19 and 30 years old, faithful Roman Catholics and Swiss citizens. Guardsmen commit to serving a minimum of 25 months, after which they can chose to leave or be promoted to sergeant.
Among those present at this year's swearing-in ceremony were Doris Leuthard, president of the Swiss Confederation, and Peter Stutz, chief-of-staff, who represented the Swiss army. Also participating as guests of honor was the council of the Canton of San Gallen.
Rome, Italy, May 6, 2010 (CNA) - The International Union of Superior Generals will meet in Rome May 7-11, bringing together 900 superior generals from 75 countries to discuss the needs of the Church and world.
According to President of the Union Sister Maureen Cusick, the meeting is intended to “focus on the situations in the world that challenge religious women to raise their voice and their prophetic light.”
These are situations in which “there is death, war, hunger, injustice. Whether it be in society or in the Church, religious women must be determined to bring light to the darkness. In order to do so, religious women must have a prophetic spirit, in order to carry the precise message of the Gospel and not only a general social effort.”
The International Union of Superior Generals is an institution approved by the Holy See. Some 1,900 women’s religious congregations are members, representing more than 750,000 sisters from around the world.
Vatican City, May 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Holy See has accepted the resignations of the Irish bishops Francis Lagan, auxiliary of Derry, and Joseph Duffy of the Diocese of Clogher in line with traditional canon law procedure upon having reached the age of retirement. The resignations come as buzz about a restructuring of the Catholic Church of Ireland is becoming ever more audible.
The Pope accepted the Irish bishops’ resignations along with that of the Bishop Francis Folorunsho Clement Alonge of the Diocese of Ondo, Nigeria, according to a statement from the Holy See’s Press Office on Thursday.
Bishops are requested under canon law to offer their resignations to the Holy Father upon turning 75 years old. According to Canon 401,1 the Pope takes the circumstances of the resignation into consideration and makes a decision on whether or not to accept the resignation in due course.
For Bishop Duffy, the process took over a year, while Bishop Lagan’s papers were processed after just six months. Two other Irish bishops have reached the age limit and are waiting for the Pope to give them the final word.
The resignations follow those of three fellow bishops in Ireland since December, but those took place according to Canon 401, 2. That canon allows resignation to be requested because the bishop is seen as being impeded in the fulfilment of his office due to health reasons or other “grave” causes.
All three of the recently resigned Irish bishops were tied to reports that cases of sex abuse by priests were mishandled in their dioceses, and none of them has been replaced to date. Two others, auxiliaries of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Bishops Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field, submitted their resignation papers last December due also to their implication in official reports and have still not heard from Rome.
On Thursday, the Vatican simultaneously announced the nomination of Msgr. Liam MacDaid as the successor to Bishop Duffy in the Diocese of Clogher. There was no word on a replacement for the auxiliary in Derry.
Patsy McGarry, correspondent to the Vatican for the Irish Times, wrote Tuesday of “ongoing, behind the scenes” discussions about a possible restructuring within the Catholic Church of Ireland. He suggested that there is talk of merging dioceses across the country, including those of Derry and Clogher, to bring the current number of 26 dioceses down to 11 in the country.
This, he wrote, would create a “more flexible and effective” bishops’ conference, thus facilitating “better quality decision-making as well as greater speed in arriving at decisions.”
The Catholic population of Ireland is currently served by four archbishops and 25 bishops, McGarry noted, while the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the U.S., at a similar size, “makes do” with a single archbishop and six auxiliaries.
Pope Benedict XVI did not breach the subject in his Letter to Irish Catholics on March 19, but he did tell bishops that “Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives.”
Asked if restructuring the dioceses was a possibility, Brenda Drumm, a communications officer for the Irish Bishops' Conference, told CNA "I've no information on that I'm afraid."
Mexico City, Mexico, May 6, 2010 (CNA) - A Mexico City human rights group has asked the National Council for the Prevention and Eradication of Discrimination to investigate a pro-marriage organization because its radio spots defend traditional marriage.
Representative David Razu, president of the Human Rights Committee of the Mexico City Legislative Assembly, sent a letter to the National Council’s president, Ricardo Antonio Bucio, calling for the investigation of the group, “Man + Woman = Marriage.”
The website for “Man + Woman = Marriage” explains that the organization’s aims are to collect 50,000 signatures in order to bring a measure before the Legislative Assembly that would re-establish marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It would also protect all adopted children and ensure they are placed with a mother and a father.
Last December the Legislative Assembly voted to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
“Man + Woman = Marriage” said the law left children without any legal protection, and that the measure on adoption was approved at the last minute without any consensus.