Havana, Cuba, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - An emaciated, political prisoner in Cuba was recently freed after what has been reported as unprecedented talks between President Raul Castro and Catholic Church officials.
Ariel Sigler Amaya, a 46-year-old dissident was arrested in 2003 with 74 other protestors for what the local Communist government viewed as treason. Sigler became a paraplegic while in prison and now weighs 106 lbs.
News agencies are attributing Sigler's release with talks between Church officials and the Cuban government as well as the upcoming visit of the Vatican's foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who will travel to Havana within days.
During talks with Cardinal Jaime Ortega on Saturday, who leads the Archdiocese of Havana, government officials said they would release Sigler who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The talks, which commenced May 19, have taken place as part an effort to end a hunger strike from the dissenters.
Though the prisoner's family is thrilled at his release, Sigler told the Agence France Presse (AFP) that he is torn.
“Emotionally, I have mixed feelings, both joy and pain, because there are so many (dissident) brothers still jailed.”
The AFP reported that six other political prisoners have been transferred from jails to their homes on Saturday in what have been considered concessions by the Cuban government.
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI spoke this morning to 40 members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, emphasizing "the significance of work in pontifical representations."
"The service of representation for which you are preparing yourselves," he said, "means participating in that 'sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum' which characterizes the ministry of the Roman Pontiff. ... In this ecclesial perspective, representation involves the need to accept and nourish certain dimensions of one's own priestly life."
The first such dimension is the need "to cultivate full inner adherence to the person of the Pope, his Magisterium and his universal ministry; in other words, complete adherence to the one who has been given the task of strengthening his brothers in the faith. Secondly, it involves attentive care, true 'passion,' for ecclesial communion."
Finally, being a representative of the Roman Pontiff means "having the capacity to be a solid 'bridge,' a safe channel of communication between the particular Churches and the Apostolic See, on the one hand giving the Pope and his collaborators an objective, correct and in-depth view of the ecclesial and social reality in which you live while, on the other, undertaking to transmit the norms, indications and guidelines emanating from the Holy See, not bureaucratically but with profound love for the Church, ... at the same time respecting the efforts of bishops and the path of the particular Churches to which you have been sent."
Pope Benedict continued to say that this service requires "complete dedication and generous willingness to sacrifice, if necessary, individual intuitions, personal projects and other possibilities to exercise the priestly ministry."
If the pontifical representative strives "to enter into harmony with the universal perspective, and to serve the unity of the flock of God, ... he truly becomes a sign of the Pope's presence and charity. And while this is a benefit for the life of all the particular Churches, it is especially so in certain delicate or difficult situations in which, for various reasons, the Christian community finds itself living."
Therefore the work of pontifical representatives is "an authentic priestly service that bears close analogy to the representation of Christ, which is typical of priests. As such, it has an intrinsically sacrificial dimension," he said.
"The figure and presence of the nuncio, the apostolic delegate and the permanent observer is determined not only by the environment in which they work but, first and foremost, by the One Whom they are called to represent. ... Being spokesman for the Vicar of Christ can be demanding, sometimes extremely arduous, but it is never demeaning or depersonalizing. It is, rather, an original way to fulfill one's priestly vocation."
New York City, N.Y., Jun 14, 2010 (CNA) - A critic decried a recent World Cup car commercial as “Catholic mockery” as it features an actual church founded in honor of a former soccer player which parodies Catholic rituals.
The Iglesia Maradoniana – Maradonian Church – an allegedly real community in Argentina established by fans of retired soccer player, Diego Maradona, is featured in a recent Hyundai car commercial which aired during the FIFA World Cup last weekend.
In the commercial, a “priest” flanked by soccer players, processes into a church-like building, chanting the “Agnus Dei” in Latin while a soccer ball is carried in. After the priest “marries” a couple, the congregation erupts in dancing and singing while confetti rains down. Mock Eucharistic ministers are briefly seen feeding pizza to church members.
All of this occurs while a narrator says, “all over the world, soccer is almost a religion, but for the members of one church in Argentina, it actually is.”
“Fans show their loyalty in all kinds of ways – ours, just by another Hyundai.”
In an email to the company provided to CNA on Monday, Fr. Thomas Berg, Ph.D., who is president of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human person, condemned the commercial.
“As a Catholic priest, and a driver of Hyundai vehicles for the past six years, I am outraged at the egregious religious insensitivity and Catholic mockery (to not say anti-Catholic bigotry) portrayed in your recent insulting commercial that ridicules Catholic religious beliefs and practices,” Fr. Berg wrote.
“I demand that you pull this commercial from the airwaves immediately and promptly apologize to the worlds 1.2 billion Catholics,” he added.
CNA contacted the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights for comment on Monday but was told the group would not be issuing a statement. Jeff Field, spokesman for Catholic League president Bill Donohue, said that they do not believe Hyundai's intent was anti-Catholic. Field explained that since Hyundai was featuring an actual church, the car company itself was not parodying Catholic rituals.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Radrizzani of Mercedes Lujan called on priests in Argentina to fight the separation between faith and daily life, which harms the Church in the world today.
During the closing of the Year of Priests, the archbishop said the tragedy of today’s society is “the divorce between faith and life,” because people live one way and preach “a faith they don’t experience. For this reason, we are convinced that the coherent life of a priest gives credibility to the Church and makes her grow, while a lukewarm or indifferent life destroys that credibility.”
Archbishop Radrizzani said the path for overcoming this problem is found in “the wisdom of the saints who reflected Jesus and his Gospel.”
He exhorted priests to avoid falling into a routine, as well as the superficiality that turns them into “religion officials.” He added that this leads to a loss of the notion of sin.
The prelate insisted on the need to be witnesses of Christian life because when priests show they are fulfilled, “boys and girls ask why they feel that way.”
“In discovering that behind everything is the Lord for whom we live and for whom we would like to die, they will understand that God is capable of fulfilling the meaning of life.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA) - The spokeswoman of the Institute for the Formation of Family Values in Mexico, Claudia Simental Flores, called on Mexicans last week to vote for candidates “who see public office as an opportunity for real service to their constituents,” including the protection of life from the moment of conception.
In an article published in El Grafico, Flores criticized Mexico City official, Leticia Bonifaz, who said there was a lack of “political will” for the legalization of abortion at the national level.
“There is a ‘lack of political will’ to attack human life, which is an inherent right that every human being possesses? Thank goodness this kind of will to attack defenseless human beings does not exist,” Flores said, noting that 17 Mexican states have enacted legal protections for the unborn.
She also stressed that those in public office are not there to take advantage of their posts and promote laws contrary to human dignity, but rather to work “for the defense of the rights of every human being, including the unborn.”
“How can we trust in those who commit themselves to defending those least protected, but as time goes on - hungry for votes and power - they act against innocent human beings, not even giving them the legitimate right to live?” she asked.
For this reason, she advised Mexicans not to be misled by promises made by many candidates who may not be able to keep them. “Let us focus our attention on those true politicians who see public office as an opportunity for real service to their constituents,” she said.
Flores invited Mexicans to ask themselves if they want a country that is “open to life and to the defense of the family … or a place where death is the language of a culture” that has lost “its dignity as thinking beings.”
Madrid, Spain, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - A Spanish bishop recently lamented that Catholic doctors who stand up for their moral beliefs often experience “intense rejection and misunderstanding” within society.
The prelate also remarked that Catholic physicians are increasingly “defenseless” in the face of what he believes to be “troublesome” research prospects involving human life that “are evermore daring and unscrupulous.”
Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla of Alcala de Henares in Spain gave his comments on June 11 during a local congress for Catholic doctors.
Speaking on what he feels is a current societal misconception on the value of the person, the bishop said that “life is not considered an absolute that must always be respected, but rather, a relative good to be valued according to the advantages it brings one in terms of pleasure and well-being for others, and for society in terms of utility, productivity and sustainability.”
In light of this, when Catholic doctors propose clear moral answers with no room for exceptions, they are met with “intense rejection and more radically with misunderstanding,” the bishop continued.
“In the not-so-distant past, moral theology was entrusted with authoritatively providing solutions" to all issues regarding ethics. However, he added, "little by little, secular and autonomous ethics have been developing without a reference to theology.”
Bishop Reig Pla then rejected what he called “secular bioethics” which, in his opinion, only uphold “the demands of rationality when the theological principal that affirms the sacredness of life is abandoned and the new point of view of the quality of life is accepted.”
In spite of these challenges, however, the prelate underscored that there is an open door for the Church to have greater influence because of the need to return to natural law and moral norms.
Vatican City, Jun 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Following the recent murder of a bishop in Turkey, the Holy Father has appointed a new apostolic administrator of the apostolic vicariate of Anatolia.
Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, 70, who has been serving as Archbishop of Izmir since 2004, will replace Bishop Luigi Padovese, who was stabbed to death in Iskendurun, Turkey on June 3 by his driver, who also served as his aide.
Although Turkish police have detained the alleged killer, they have not yet established a motive. The accused is said to be Muslim.
Archbishop Franceschini is a Franciscan who was appointed apostolic vicar of Turkey from 1993 to 2004, until he was made Archbishop of Izmir by Pope John Paul II.
Speaking to the Vatican Radio recently about Christians within Turkey, Archbishop Franceschini said that he is “convinced that we will succeed in putting this beautiful, little community, which has the will to live and survive, back on its feet.”
The Vatican reported on Sunday that there are currently 4,345 Catholics, eight priests, and 16 religious in the apostolic vicariate of Anatolia.
New York City, N.Y., Jun 14, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Responding to “enough of an outcry” from Catholic individuals and blogs, Korean car maker Hyundai announced on Monday that it has pulled a World Cup-themed television ad that ran during the USA-England soccer match on Saturday featuring a "church" in Argentina mocking Catholic sacraments.
The ad depicts the ceremony of a “church” called "Iglesia Maradoniana" founded in Rosario, Argentina. The “church” was established in the spirit of both honoring Diego Armando Maradona -Argentina's top soccer player and current coach of its national team- as well as mocking the Catholic Church.
The ad presents elements of a Catholic ritual, but with Catholic symbolism heavily mixed with soccer imagery, while actor Jeff Bridges, the spot's narrator says: "All over the world, soccer is almost a religion... but for the members of one church in Argentina, it actually is."
Hyundai tried first to justify the ad claiming that it was based on the actual church in Argentina; but later, Hyundai spokesman apologized and announced the ad was being taken down.
“We got enough of an outcry that we think we missed the mark,” a Hyundai spokesman told the DailyFinance. “So we're going to do the right thing and pull it down.”
In a statement, the Korean company said: “The unexpected response created by the ad, which combined both soccer and religious motifs to speak to the passion of international soccer fans, prompted us to take a more critical and informed look at the spot. Though unintentional, we now see it was insensitive. We appreciate this feedback and sincerely apologize to those we've offended.”
True to its word, Hyundai made all efforts possible to eliminate the ad from YouTube. Several links that originally led to the ad, now display a YouTube message stating, "this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Innocean Americas."
Innocean Worlwide Americas is the California-based advertisement company that apparently created the ad.
Innocean's mission statement is: "Truly understand your client’s needs. Only then can you give them what they want."