Cannes, France, May 25, 2010 (CNA) - At the end the prestigious 12-day Cannes Film Festival on Sunday, a film on a group of French monks who were martyred in Africa during the 1990s won the event's second highest honor.
“Of Gods and Men,” a film by the French director Xavier Beauvois, centers around the true story of seven Cistercian monks who were taken hostage and murdered by Islamic fundamentalists in 1996. Though the monks were told to return to their native France, the group refused and chose to remain in the conflict-torn region of the Algerian mountains, knowing that they would be martyred.
On Sunday, the movie was awarded the “Grand Prix” honor, which is the festival's second highest prize.
Kate Muir, a film critic for the London-based Times Online, called the film the “most intensely passionate” one of the Cannes event, and according to her, during the movie's premier the “audience wept.”
In her May 19 review, Muir discussed Beauvois' depiction of the monks, who lived contemplative lives in the service of the poor in the Atlas Mountains. In the film, the seven men build strong friendships with their surrounding community and live in relative peace until conflict arises between the local government and extremist groups. Though the monks are advised by everyone involved to leave, each one decides to stay and is eventually held hostage and murdered by the fundamentalists.
“The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbors make (up) the reason for our choice,” stated the festival jury who issued the award. “This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy.”
Washington D.C., May 25, 2010 (CNA) - A pro-life group urged the Senate to postpone the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, citing their concern that the committee will not have enough time to properly review the nominee's professional record.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, wrote that her organization is “deeply concerned” that the committee will have “insufficient time” to review Kagan's record before the June 28th deadline.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, said last week that he plans to begin hearings for Kagan on June 28.
Dr. Yoest urged committee members to “provide whatever time is needed for members to thoroughly prepare for the hearing, even if it requires postponing the hearing date.”
The pro-life leader also pointed out that since Kagan has not served as a judge, it is necessary to have the time to review any documents related to her service in the the White House during the Clinton administration.
In her letter, Dr. Yoest quoted Terri Garner, director of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, who stated that it will be “very difficult” to produce all of the documents on Kagan's record to the Senate committee before the deadline.
On Monday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) echoed Dr. Yoest's concerns about Clinton-era documents. “We're heading to what could be a train wreck," he said, according to the Associated Press. "I don't believe that this committee can go forward with an adequate hearing" without all records from Kagan's tenure as a White House counsel and then domestic policy adviser to President Clinton.
Elaborating on her group's concerns, Dr. Yoest wrote, “We at Americans United for Life, like most Americans, believe that a nominee's judicial philosophy goes to the heart of his or her qualifications to serve on the United States Supreme Court.”
“Because Solicitor General Kagan has not served as a judge, and consequently there are no judicial decisions to review, it is critical that Committee members be given ample time to review the documents she produced while serving in the executive branch, and thoroughly question her about those writings in order to understand the philosophy she would bring to the Court.”
“Without time to complete this process, members will be unable to adequately perform their Constitutional duty to evaluate her qualifications,” she added.
“Americans and their elected representatives deserve to learn more about Kagan's judicial philosophy before she is given a lifetime appointment to our nation's highest court,” Dr. Yoest underscored.
Mangalore, India, May 25, 2010 (CNA) - Bishop of Karwar Derek Fernandes has expressed grief and sorrow at the loss of “precious lives” in the airplane crash at Mangalore International Airport in India.
At Sunday Mass he conveyed his deepest condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families and wished a fast recovery to the injured. During the Mass he offered prayers along with the faithful of the diocese for the souls of the departed, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said.
On Saturday morning, 158 people were killed when the Air India Express Boeing 737-800 crashed on a flight from Dubai to Mangalore, a southwestern port city. According to Agence France Presse, the plane veered off the runway and burst into flames.
Eight survived the crash, India’s first major air disaster since 2000.
Crash investigators have recovered the cockpit voice recorder but are still seeking the flight data recorder. Mangalore police commissioner Semant Kumar Singh said that 22 bodies had yet to be identified.
New York City, N.Y., May 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican issued a communique on Tuesday announcing a joint initiative with an international bio-pharmaceutical company to raise awareness and expand research of adult stem cell therapy.
Neostem Inc. and the Pontifical Council for Culture will combine the efforts of their respective foundations, the Stem for Life Foundation and STOQ (Science Theology and the Ontological Quest) Foundation, to advance research and explore the use of adult stem cells in regenerative medicine.
Fr. Tomasz Trafny from the Council for Culture remarked in a May 19 press release, "Considering the potential implication of scientific investigation, medical applicability and the cultural impact of research on adult stem cells, we view the collaboration with NeoStem as a critical effort."
"Through educational initiatives with NeoStem and sponsorship of scientific research programs involving cutting edge adult stem cell science which does not hurt human life, we come one step closer to a breakthrough that can relieve needless human suffering,” he said.
The pontifical council is particularly excited about the company's VSEL technology, which utilizes adult stem cells that behave like embryonic stem cells in their ability to regenerate and repair. Fr. Trafny said the technology could receive a significant financial investment from the Church.
"For over 40 years, physicians have been using adult stem cells to treat various blood cancers, but only recently has the promise of using adult stem cells to treat a significant number of other diseases begun to be realized. There are tremendous clinical and economic advantages to autologous stem cell transplantation (receiving your own stem cells) as there are no issues with immune rejection. Engraftment with your own stem cells is faster, safer and much less costly than receiving someone else's stem cells (allogeneic)," said Dr. Robin L. Smith, Chairman and CEO of NeoStem.
The initiative will also explore the cultural relevance and theological impact of adult stem cell therapy.
“As part of the collaboration, NeoStem and the pontifical council will make efforts to develop educational programs, publications and academic courses with an interdisciplinary approach for theological and philosophical faculties, including those of bioethics, around the world,” said Tuesday's Vatican communique.
“One of the initiatives,” the statement added, “will be a three-day international conference at the Vatican on adult stem cell research, including VSEL technology (which uses very small embryonic-like stem cells), that will focus on medical research presentations and theological and philosophical considerations and implications of scientific achievements.”
Bogotá, Colombia, May 25, 2010 (CNA) - Amada Rosa Pérez was one of Colombia’s top models before she disappeared from the public eye five years ago. Now she is making headlines once again, but this time by sharing her conversion story.
Amada explained to the Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo,” that she had been diagnosed with a disease that left her with only 60 percent of her hearing in her left ear. The news caused her to question her lifestyle. “I felt disappointed, unsatisfied, directionless, submerged in fleeting pleasures ...” she said.
“I always sought answers and the world never gave them to me.”
“Before I was always in a hurry, stressed out, and got upset easily," she continued. "Now I live in peace, the world doesn’t appeal to me, I enjoy every moment the Lord gives me. I go to Mass, I pray the Holy Rosary daily, as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m.
“I go to confession frequently,” she added.
Amada now works tirelessly with a Marian religious community in Colombia.
“Being a model means being a benchmark, someone whose beliefs are worthy of being imitated, and I grew tired of being a model of superficiality. I grew tired of a world of lies, appearances, falsity, hypocrisy and deception, a society full of anti-values that exalts violence, adultery, drugs, alcohol, fighting, and a world that exalts riches, pleasure, sexual immorality and fraud.
“I want to be a model that promotes the true dignity of women and not their being used for commercial purposes,” Amada said.
Cordoba, Spain, May 25, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Cardinal Julian Herranz, expressed sadness this week over those who “vilify” priests by generalizing cases of sexual abuse among the clergy.
Speaking to journalists this week, Cardinal Herranz said, “These cases are profoundly sad, they are the most serious crimes that can be committed by a priest.” It is this fact which causes great sorrow to the Holy Father, he continued, “because it means a priest is betraying his vocation” and bringing hurt to many souls.
Nevertheless, he pointed out, only a small number of priests are involved in such cases, “as the statistics do not even reach one percent.” For this reason, he lamented those who seek to “tarnish the image of the Catholic priesthood and who in part are succeeding.”
The intention here is to “vilify the other 99 percent of priests faithful to their vocation, who with great generosity and desire, do the best they can for souls.” They “are working throughout the world and helping so many people in need and those marginalized in society,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Herranz added that some intend to “also damage the image of the Catholic Church, which has members who are sinners,” but stressed that “the Church is holy because of her origin, because of the sacraments she administers and because of her legion of holy people.”
For this reason, he concluded, the image of the priesthood and the Church must not be tarnished because of the “detestable crimes” of a few of her members.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 25, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina said this week during the county's celebration of its bicentennial, that “the human and Christian values that our nation continues to maintain” must be the foundation for a stronger Argentina.
The archbishop pointed out that the events which led to the country’s independence in the 19th century were followed by “a series of structural problems that have endured to this day, such as political instability, widespread corruption, lack of interest in the problems of public life, economic concerns,” and the “famous ‘external debt’ that was very quickly amassed and has been dragged along for decades and decades.”
“All of these events have brought discouragement to Argentinean society,” the archbishop continued. “The records from the first Centennial in 1910 show that at that time the spiritual atmosphere was different. Certainly at that time there was no lack of defects in our society and enormous injustices, but Argentina saw the promise of a great future,” he said.
Archbishop Aguer encouraged Argentineans to regain hope by looking to the “splendid tradition and the human and Christian values that our nation continues to maintain.”
“God has favored us generously with his providence. Now we must respond,” he concluded.
Hamburg, Germany, May 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - An agreement has been reached between the Vatican and the German city of Hamburg on the creation of a formation center for Catholic theology and methods of teaching religion at the city’s university.
The agreement was signed during a ceremony on May 18 in the city of Hamburg.
Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset, apostolic nuncio to Germany, represented the Holy See and Herlind Gundelach, minister for science and research of the Free Hanseatic City of Hamburg, represented the city. Also present at the ceremony were Hamburg’s Archbishop Werner Thissen , Auxiliary Bishop Hans-Jochen Jashcke , University of Hamburg vice president Holger Fischer and the dean of the university’s theological faculty.
Though the agreement itself is between the Holy See and the City of Hamburg, the new center will be hosted at Hamburg University. It will focus on formation in Catholic theology and the teaching of religion.
Hamburg University is one of the largest in Germany. Founded in 1919, it has about 38,000 students enrolled in six different schools or faculties.
Washington D.C., May 25, 2010 (CNA) - A recent Zogby poll commissioned by the Family Research Council shows that by a margin of nearly three to one Americans think that military leaders should decide whether or not the “dont ask, don't tell” policy barring homosexuals from openly serving in the military should be repealed.
The poll conducted by the marketing group Zogby was published on May 17 and showed that 59 percent of Americans think that military leaders should be the primary decision makers on whether or not openly gay individuals should serve in the military, versus 23 percent who think the decision should be left to Congress. Eighteen percent of individuals polled responded that neither should decide or that they were unsure.
Family Research Council discussed the results of the poll as commentators weighed-in on the Obama administration's move last night to push new legislation that would overturn what is commonly known as the “don't ask, don't tell” policy.
After three lawmakers wrote to Peter Orszag, White House Budget Director, pushing for the new measure, the budget director responded on May 24 saying that the Obama administration “supports the proposed amendment.”
Although a main concern from critics of the move is that there is not enough time for the Pentagon to complete its review of how to implement the measure, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is expected to present the issue on the House floor later this week.
Tony Perkins, president of FRC, denounced the initiative in a conference call on Tuesday, saying “it appears very clearly that this is a move to use the military to advance a radical political agenda.”
Discussing the results of the Zogby poll, Perkins stated that “three to one, people believe that this (decision) should not be made by Congress but that military leaders those who lead our troops, not political appointees, not the Commander in Chief – but it should be those who serve day in and day out leading the men and women in uniform.”
Perkins added that there are many active duty military members who, although they cannot publicly speak out against the move without being “severely chastised,” would nevertheless “love the opportunity to testify.”
“But there have been no hearings held on this issue,” he noted, “and this will assure that there will not be and what information is collected is useless because this is nothing more that a political charade.”
Family Research Council has started a petition in response to the move for new legislation, urging voters to “help keep our troops from being used to advance a liberal political agenda.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 25, 2010 (CNA) -
The Parents’ Network in Argentina recently called on Senators Jose Cano, Sergio Mansilla and Beatriz Rojkes de Alperovich to vote against same-sex “marriage” when the bill comes before the country's Senate.
The network warned that there is no reason or justification for the legalization of same-sex “marriage” and that lawmakers who pass such legislation would be jeopardizing their political future.
“Senators Jose Cano and Sergio Mansilla: hold your positions, do not yield to the pressure," the group stated. By convincing your "fellow senators" to vote against same-sex marriage, "you will be providing a great service to the country and showing that you deserve the office you hold,” the network stated.
Likewise the organization addressed Sen. Beatriz Rojkes de Alperovich, asking her to change her vote: “Do not ignore the religious principles that you confess, do not alter the philosophical and political concept of the party you lead.”
“Yours could be the swing vote,” the network asserted.
Los Angeles, Calif., May 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
On May 24, the school of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, which is located in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was vandalized in an apparent hate crime.
Police officers responded on Monday to a report of a break-in at St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Maywood, Calif. After surveying the extensive damage done to the kitchen area, police began to realize the malicious nature of the crime.
In addition to the number “666” being written in different parts of the kitchen, a cross was displayed sacrilegiously and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe was stabbed with a knife.
Maywood police said that the evidence displayed was consistent with the nature of a hate crime. No arrests have been reported at this time and the Maywood – Cuhady Police Department is asking for public assistance in helping solve the investigation.
Lisbon, Portugal, May 25, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of Portugal released a message last week emphasizing the value of the Holy Father's words to the Portuguese faithful during his recent four-day stay in their country. The prelates welcomed his teachings with “joy and responsibility” saying the Pope's suggestions will be used in the formation of a pastoral plan for evangelization.
The Holy Father made an apostolic journey to Portugal May 11-14, making stops in Lisbon and Fatima, giving 16 official addresses to Portuguese religious, cultural, social, civil and military representatives and masses of people. The culminating moment of the trip was Mass in Fatima on May 13, which was celebrated with 500,000 in attendance.
On May 19, the Portuguese bishops released a message in which they thanked the faithful for their “remarkable” mobilization to see Benedict XVI. “A current of deep and simple humanity traveled distances and brought many people together, united in the common search for wisdom and seeking to calm the great fears of the future.”
The bishops said that the visit, marked by spontaneous affection and a holiness that attracted people of all ages, was a “real act of Easter” which left the Church with a wealth of words and specific guidance from the Successor of Peter.
Meeting with them in Fatima, the Holy Father asked the bishops to address "grave social need" and the demand for a "new missionary vigor on the part of Christians." He further called them to make efforts to "understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources."
The Pontiff also urged the bishops to bring the witness of believers into close contact with those outside of the Church.
The Holy Father’s suggestions, wrote the bishops, will be incorporated into the development of the Pastoral Care Program for the future of the Church in Portugal.
Questions referring to areas within the pastoral life “deserve special attention,” noted the bishops, “and will be welcomed in the way of rethinking and restructuring the Church, in the renewed impetus to charity, in missionary development and in proposals for a credible and convincing culture.”
According to the bishops, the final product, which will be released before the end of 2011, is being developed “in response to new challenges characteristic of civilizational change that we are living.”