Archive of June 24, 2010

Judge Bork warns against Elena Kagan's activist comments

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - Judge Robert Bork spoke out today to oppose the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan. Bork, the former Supreme Court nominee and Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, spoke about Kagan's appointment in a conference call today sponsored by pro-life group Americans United for Life (AUL).

Joined by two experts in constitutional law, Bork warned that Kagan's outspoken admiration of activist judges, along with her lack of judicial experience, should raise great concern from the American people.

William Saunders, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs and Senior Counsel for AUL, dismissed the image of Kagan as a moderate nominee with little track record. Although she is not a judge with hundreds of legal opinions, her articles, speeches and actions give important clues about the type of justice she would be, he said.

Saunders argued that  Kagan's track record reveals her to be an activist who endorses an agenda-driven judicial philosophy, as well as a strong abortion advocate.  He pointed to documents from Clinton's presidency that show Kagan opposed placing limits on partial birth abortion. The evidence, the AUL attorney argued, indicates that Kagan believes a woman should be able to have an abortion at any time for any reason, and that the government should pay for abortions. 

Saunders also noted that Kagan clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall and called his jurisprudence “a thing of glory.” Marshall was one of the most extreme justices on the court in regard to abortion, opposing parental involvement and supporting tax-funding, he explained, saying that Kagan should be asked if she considers those decisions by Marshall to be “a thing of glory.”

Professor Gerard Bradley of the Notre Dame School of Law told reporters that while Kagan has shown herself to be both dedicated and capable, her credentials as a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court are lacking, especially when compared with the credentials of  recent nominees.

“Her credentials are especially notably lacking in prior judicial experience and also in the lack of a substantial scholarly record,” Bradley said, noting that Kagan has not worked in the more strictly legal and analytical areas of administration.

Speaking on the nomination and answering questions from the press, Judge Bork explained that the American people should be very concerned about Kagan's admiration for Israeli Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak, who is described by his friends as one of the world's leading judicial activists.

As Dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan praised Barak, calling him her “judicial hero” and saying that of all the judges associated with Harvard Law, his is the association of which she is most proud.

When Barak's record is considered, these comments are extremely troubling, said Bork. “Barak may be the worst judge on the planet.”

He described Barak's “extravagantly activist record,” which includes taking over both military decisions and the office of the Attorney General in Israel. He spoke of Barak's claim that the Court had the authority to decide any issue, removing limitations on the judicial branch and giving it power to reorder Israeli life as it sees fit.

While claiming to be acting in name of democracy, Barak has in fact created a “parody of a court,” Judge Bork said. He described the Israeli court under Barak as “the most activist court I've ever seen” and warned that Kagan will likely follow the Barak's example.

In addition, Bork expressed other concerns about Kagan, including her lack of judicial experience.

“It is typical of young lawyers going into constitutional law that they have inflated dreams of what constitutional law can do, of what courts can do. That usually wears off as time passes and they get experience. But Ms. Kagan has not had the time to develop a mature philosophy of judging.”

“The academic world is not a place in which you learn prudence and caution and other virtues of a judge,” he added.

Asked what kinds of questions should be posed to Kagan in her upcoming Senate hearing, Bork said, “I think she should be called upon to describe the kind of materials she would look to to find an answer to a legal question.”

Whether or not she looks to conventional sources will be crucial in evaluating what she will be like as a judge on issues such as abortion, he explained. Bork said he does not believe that a constitutional “right” to abortion exists, but if Kagan does, she should be asked for the basis of this belief.

Speaking on the correlation between abortion and other constitutional issues, Bork said that a potential judge's support for abortion reveals a dangerous “willingness to write in values that are not in the Constitution.”

“Abortion as a constitutional value requires a judge who is willing to legislate without regard to anything in the Constitution,” he said.

Such a judge is more likely to decide other cases in the same spirit, he explained. “For example, a judge who thinks there's a constitutional right to abortion almost certainly will decide that there's a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

If Kagan's nomination is approved, Americans can expect “a judge who does not give any special weight to the original meaning of the Constitution or to precedent,” Bork said, emphasizing the danger of allowing such a mindset to take over the court.

 “You'll have a court that is much more to the left than we have today.”

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Obama administration makes blitz of statements to advance LGBT ‘agenda’

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - President Obama and leaders in his administration have made many statements to mark “LGBT Pride Month,” calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of anti-discrimination laws to advance the LGBT “agenda” in the U.S. and overseas. They characterized opponents as foes of progress.

On Tuesday President Obama spoke at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Pride Month Reception in the East Room of the White House. He noted his pledge not to put aside “matters of basic equality” despite “enormous challenges” for the economy and for foreign policy.

He claimed to have made “extraordinary progress” on LGBT political issues, pointing to the passage of a “hate crimes” act and to proposed changes to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barring open homosexuals from service.

The president also announced a proposed federal rule that any hospital participating in Medicare or Medicaid, meaning “most hospitals,” give homosexual partners the same privileges and visitation rights as “straight partners.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has sent a letter to these hospitals asking them to adopt the changes now.

Recipients of the letter include Sr. Carol Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association (CHA).

“Because I believe in committed -- I believe that committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country, I have called for Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” the president continued. “We are pushing hard to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill.”

For their part, the U.S. Catholic bishops have voiced “serious concerns” about the proposed Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), saying it would “specially protect” any sexual conduct outside of marriage, threaten religious freedom and punish Catholic teachings as discriminatory.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a Tuesday event “celebrating” LGBT Month at the Loy Henderson Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

“We celebrate the progress that is being made here in our own country toward advancing the rights of LGBT Americans, and we recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done but that we are moving together in the right direction,” she commented. “And we reaffirm our commitment to protect and advance the rights of all human beings, as Cheryl just said, of members of the LGBT community around the world.”

“In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors,” she continued.

She said it was “extraordinary” what has happened on these issues “in such a short period of time.” The State Department, she said, will continue to advance “a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Bureau of African Affairs, Clinton informed her audience, has asked every embassy in Africa to report on “the conditions of local LGBT communities.”

“I’m asking every regional bureau to make this issue a priority,” she continued, noting how U.S. Ambassador to Albania John Withers went on television to publicly express support for Klodian Cela, a man who “came out” on the television program Big Brother. She reported that Keith Eddins, a U.S. chargé to Slovakia, also marched to represent the United States in the country’s first Pride Parade.

“So as we continue to advance LGBT rights in other countries, we also must continually work to make sure we are advancing the agenda here,” commented Secretary Clinton, later adding “the struggle for equality is never, ever finished.”

On June 21, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the Department of Justice's 2010 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month program. In his remarks, he praised the addition of “gender identity” to the U.S. legal code and claimed that a bill against “hate crimes” would “finally” protect LGBT individuals from bias-motivated violence.

Holder said it was an ‘important development” that the Department of Justice had ruled that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) covers and protects same-sex partners.

He also noted his announcement of a Diversity Management Plan and the appointment of Channing Phillips as Deputy Associate Attorney General for Diversity. This initiative, in his words, would ensure that the Department can “effectively recruit, hire, retain and develop a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity, a Department that welcomes and encourages the contributions of its LGBT employees.”

He said there was “much more work” to be done to help LGBT employees “serve openly, with pride.”

President Obama also chose to extend his advocacy to include his Father's Day proclamation, in which he praised families with “two fathers.” He also did the same for those with “two mothers” on Mother’s Day. His remarks drew fire from critics who said he politicized a national event, overlooked severe dysfunction among homosexuals, and obscured the need for a child to have both a mother and a father.

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Aid to the Church in Need to publish Child’s Bible in eight more African languages

London, England, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - A new grant from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will help publish its Child’s Bible in eight more languages for the children of Africa.

A grant of more than $27,000 from the U.K. office of ACN will print and ship Child’s Bibles to Africa as well as Child’s Bible posters for use worldwide. The Child’s Bible is now in its 31st year of publication.

In 2009 the charity received requests for more than 1.2 million copies from bishops around the globe, the charity reports in a Wednesday press release.

There are new versions of the Child’s Bible in eight languages: the Lunda and Luvale languages of Zambia, the Konkomba language of Ghana, the Chindau and Maconde languages of Mozambique, the Luo tongue for Kenya, the Boko language for Benin and the Bari language for Sudan.

Bishop Rudolf Deng Majak, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Sudan, has said that the Child’s Bible is “a great help in our pastoral work.” The bishop, from the Diocese of Wau in South Sudan, said that people and their children “have a veritable thirst for the saving word of God, above all in this time of oppression.”

Around 15 million copies of this Bible have been distributed in Africa. It is available in 67 different African languages, many of which have few or no other books published.

Teresia Rita Njore, a child from Kenya, said her friends have had their faith deepened by the Child’s Bible.

“Before I was not interested in reading the Bible – but now I know that God speaks to his children,” she said.

According to ACN, the book is used to teach the faith and to prepare readers for the sacraments, but it is also used to help children learn to read.

Bishop Marc Benjamin of Farnfangana, Madagascar is distributing the Child’s Bible to all the baptized, including adults.

“Through our Bible campaign, as we call it, we at the same time want to reduce the number of illiterates,” he continued. “In other words, we are teaching people to read and write and at the same time bringing them the Word of God – and those who have learned to read are given a copy of the little Bible.”

ACN says its recent poster series, based on the 55 illustrations of the Child’s Bible, can be used as a visual aid in catechesis.

ACN founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten conceived the idea of the Child’s Bible, wanting to respond to Pope John Paul II’s stated wish to bring the Word of God to the children living in poverty in so many countries.

The original text was written in German by theologian Eleonore Beck. The illustrations are by Sr. Miren Sorne, a Spanish nun.

Since it was first published in 1979, about 48 million copies of the Child’s Bible have been printed in 162 different languages. Copies have been distributed in 140 countries around the world.

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Cloistered religious serve as Church's heart, Pope says

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

Speaking to a group of cloistered Dominican nuns after having blessed the restored statue of Mary in Rome’s Monte Mario quarter, Pope Benedict referred to them as the heart of the Church which provides blood to the rest of the body. In their work and prayer, together with Christ, he said, they are the "heart" of the Church and in their desire for God's love they approach the ultimate goal.

The encounter with the nuns came at the Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario, close to the “Don Orione” Center where the Pope had blessed the “Madonnina” statue earlier on Thursday morning.

Comparing the role of the cloistered nuns in their life of contemplation, work and prayer to the “heart” that provides life-giving blood to the rest of the body, Pope Benedict told them that in their lives “hidden with Christ,” they contribute to the support of the Church, “instrument of salvation for every man that the Lord has redeemed with His Blood.”

“The contemplative way of life,” he told them, “... puts you, as a living and vital limb, in the heart of the mystical body of the Lord, that is the Church.”

The Holy Father went on to urge the nuns to ensure that in all they do, “beyond the single moments of prayer,” that they allow their hearts to “continue to be guided by the desire to love God.”

Benedict XVI told them that it is the Lord that has filled them with love so as to make them able to accept God himself into their hearts. "This," he exclaimed, is “the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage!

"This is your goal.” he underscored.

"You have chosen to live in obscurity and to renounce earthly goods in order to desire above all other things the good that has no equal, the precious pearl for which it is worth abandoning all else.”

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Charity best apologist for Catholic faith, says Pope as he blesses statue of Mary

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -

The Holy Father left the Apostolic Palace on Thursday morning to bless a statue of Mary perched on a hill just a short distance north of the Vatican. While blessing the statue and venerating Mary, he commented on the importance of charity as the "best apologist for the Catholic faith" and as a tangible expression of God’s love.

The purpose of the Pope’s visit was to bless the newly restored statue of Mary which fell and broke into three pieces during a heavy storm last October. The enormous figure, known locally as the “Madonnina,” was erected in Rome’s Monte Mario quarter in 1953 in thanksgiving for answered prayers for a peaceful transition from Nazi rule of the city during the Second World War.

Addressing those present at the “Don Orione” Center where the statue is located, Pope Benedict recognized the homage it gives to Mary and its role in making her present in the daily lives of the people from its perch high above the city.

The Holy Father also prayed aloud for the faithful that Our Lady, “Mother of God and ours, might be always at the top of your thoughts and your affection, friendly comfort of your souls, sure guide of your wills and support for your steps, persuasive inspirer of the imitation of Jesus Christ.”

He also asked Mary to “protect families, provoke good intentions and suggest desires for heaven to all.”

The Pope also made reference to the center’s charitable assistance following St. Luigi Orione’s motto that “Only charity will save the world.” Recalling the role of the center, together with the “Madonnina,” in offering hope to the city, he pointed out that they have inspired citizens to works of charity, "the best apologist for the Catholic faith" which impels, moves and "brings people to faith and to hope."

Whether on a personal or institutional level, he said, charity “can never be reduced to a mere philanthropic gesture, but must remain a tangible expression of the providential love of God.”

The Holy Father went on to visit the cloistered Dominican nuns at the nearby convent of Santa Maria del Rosario.

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Bishops urge Mexicans to cast votes responsibly

Mexico City, Mexico, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - The bishops of Chihuahua urged the faithful this week to actively participate in the July 4 elections by casting their votes responsibly and freely. They also warned citizens to not be subjected to coercion or voter manipulation.

Coercion and the buying of votes “are both dishonest and objectionable tactics that constitute a grave moral fault, as they manipulate voters and violate their dignity.” The bishops added that this is especially true when voters are taken advantage of due to poverty or ignorance.

The bishops urged citizens to take into account both the proposals and the character of the candidates running for office, and called on the media to truthfully and objectively inform the public, as manipulating the news “to support or favor a particular candidate or party is immoral.”

They also noted that the Church does not identify herself with any specific political party and “offers Catholic citizens the principles and criteria that stem from the Gospel, so that they can cast their votes responsibly and with absolute freedom.”

The prelates concluded their statement exhorting voters to exercise their democratic right in accord with their consciences to chose the candidates “who can serve society best with honesty and effectiveness.”

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Pro-family group criticizes new abortion law in Spain

Logrono, Spain, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The Forum on the Family in Spain said this week that the country’s new law on abortion, which is set to take effect on July 5, is “an ideological project of the government that was introduced behind the back of even its own party.”

Ignacio Garcia-Julia, director of the forum, noted that “the first 11 articles of this law constitute an attack on the freedom of thought in matters related to sexual education.”

“It is an attack on the right of parents to educate their children freely in a subject matter as sensitive as emotional and sexual formation.  All schools will be required to offer classes on this based on a particular vision that is promoted by the most radical segments of the left,” Garcia-Julia said.

In response, the forum has launched a campaign to get information out to over a million people in cities across Spain.

It has also created a special commission to “gather the concerns of parents and channel lawsuits and legal challenges against schools or other facilities that attempt to impose a specific vision of sexuality.”

Garcia-Julia noted that in Spain, “there are diverse forms of understanding sexuality,” and therefore, “imposing gender perspective as law in the teaching of this material is something incompatible with the ideological neutrality that is required of public administrations in this area.”

He added that the legislation in Spain follows a similar law in France, “that has been on the books for 10 years and that has had the opposite effect: more abortions and the increased spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”

What Spain needs is greater assistance for mothers  and not “laws that liberalize practices such as abortion,” he concluded.

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Police search Belgian archbishop's home in sex abuse investigation

Brussels, Belgium, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - On Thursday, Belgian police searched the homes of Archbishop André-Mutien Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels and retired Archbishop Godfried Danneels following recent allegations of sex abuse by clergy members in the country.

According to Agence France Presse, nearly 30 members of the police force sealed off the home of Archbishop Léonard on Thursday.  Officers were also seen carrying a computer and documents after searching the home and office of retired Archbishop Danneels.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Hans Geybels, spokesman for Archbishop Danneels confirmed that police did not question the retired prelate.  He added that Archbishop Danneels is fully cooperating, noting that he “believes justice must run its normal course. He has nothing against that.”

Spokesman for Brussels prosecutor's office, Jean-Marc Meilleur remarked that the police conducted the raids “to collect evidence to shed light” on recent clerical sex abuse allegations.

The AP also reported that police also conducted a search on a committee office that is investigating sexual abuse claims in the Catholic Church.

Last April the country was focused on sex abuse by clergy members when Belgian Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe submitted his resignation to the Holy Father after admitting to the sexually abusing  a minor.

At the time, Archbishop Leonard also released a statement speaking of the "particularly serious situation" the Church is facing and promised to provide transparency.

The archbishop said that it's time to "turn the page" from the time in which the Church "preferred the 'solution' of silence and of covering up."

Then in May, the Belgian bishops released a statement pledging to take action to confront the situation through "concrete measures, with the support of Benedict XVI.” They also vowed to create more stringent entrance requirements for candidates to the priesthood, to commit themselves to providing effective supervision and support to pastoral workers and to draft a code of ethics for those who work with children or vulnerable adults.

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'Secularism does not mean banning religious symbols,' asserts Italian cardinal

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - Amidst the expectation of a new ruling from the EU Court in Strasbourg, the Archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, remarked that “secularism does not mean banning religious symbols,” such as the crucifix, “from public places."

In a message sent this week to Claudio Zucchelli, the president of “Christian Humanism,” which is holding a conference on the issue of “Values and Rights: The case of the crucifix,” Cardinal Bagnasco said: “To recognize the legitimacy and the value of displaying the crucifix is to guarantee respect for religious freedom and for the traditions of the people in harmony with the principle of subsidiarity which governs the relationships between states and the European institutions.”

In view of the upcoming decision by the EU Court, which had previously issued a ban on the public display of the crucifix, Cardinal Bagnasco said it was an opportune time to “bring to the attention of the public the importance of displaying the crucifix in schools.”

The cardinal said that the displaying of the crucifix is not a tool to impose the faith but rather it expresses “a tradition that we all know and recognize for its great spiritual value.” He added that it is also a sign of support for “those in need and those who suffer regardless of their faith, ethnicity or nationality.”

Quoting Pope Benedict XVI in his message, the cardinal said, “Healthy secularism implies that the State not consider religion as a simple individual sentiment that should be confined to merely the private sphere instead of considering it as part of the public community.”

The Holy Father has underscored that secularism gone awry degenerates into hostility toward all forms of political or cultural relevance of religion and the presence of any religious symbol in public institutions, the cardinal stated.

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US bishops back Olmsted in Arizona abortion drama

Washington D.C., Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - After Bishop Thomas Olmsted publicly condemned an abortion authorized by Sr. Margaret McBride in a Catholic hospital in Arizona, and after much public outcry, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine has released a statement supporting the Phoenix bishop's decision. 

A June 23 statement from the USCCB Committee on Doctrine addresses the Arizona controversy, and calls upon the teachings of the Holy Fathers to explain the issue at hand. “The Distinction between Direct Abortion and Legitimate Medical Procedures” clarifies Church teaching, and applies it succinctly to the Arizona case.

Church teaching, said the statement, holds that direct abortion is never permissible. Direct abortion is an act whose primary intent is to terminate a pregnancy and kill an unborn child. However, medical procedures which have other primary intentions, and which indirectly end the life of the unborn child, are not considered to be direct abortions nor immoral.

“The difference can be seen in two different scenarios in which the unborn child is not yet old enough to survive outside the womb,” says the statement. “In the first scenario, a pregnant woman is experiencing problems with one or more of her organs, apparently as a result of the added burden of pregnancy. The doctor recommends an abortion to protect the health of the woman.”

“In the second scenario, a pregnant woman develops cancer in her uterus. The doctor recommends surgery to remove the cancerous uterus as the only way to prevent the spread of the cancer. Removing the uterus will also lead to the death of the unborn child, who cannot survive at this point outside the uterus.”

The first scenario is an example of a direct abortion, because the surgery directly targets the life of the child. The procedure only affects the function of the woman’s organs, and thus her health, in an indirect way, explained the document. “As the Church has said many times, direct abortion is never permissible because a good end cannot justify an evil means.”

In the second scenario, the surgery “indirectly and unintentionally (although foreseeably) results in the death of an unborn child.” However, it “directly addresses the health problem of the woman” and her “health benefits directly from the surgery, because of the removal of the cancerous organ.”

In that scenario, “the surgery does not directly target the life of the unborn child,” explains the statement. “The death of the child is an unintended and unavoidable side effect and not the aim of the surgery.”

The bishops also cited Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” in which he says, “It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family… Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

The statement also addressed the abortion that took place in Phoenix last November.

Though some argued the abortion was performed on a woman whose life was threatened by pulmonary hypertension and was a legitimate medical procedure, the Doctrine Committee noted that Bishop Thomas Olmsted ruled that the procedure was a direct abortion and morally wrong. The committee did not correct Bishop Olmsted's conclusion.

It is hoped that the statement will also clear up any confusion among the faithful as to Church teaching  following  extensive coverage of the issue by national media outlets.

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Cardinal George promoting stronger relations between US, Cuba

Havana, Cuba, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, began a two-day visit to Cuba this week at the invitation of Archbishop Dionisio Garcia, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Cuba.

Archbishop Garcia told AFP that although the cardinal’s visit is of an ecclesial nature, it will surely have significance for Cuban society.  “Any improvement in relations between persons, the family,” and in between the U.S. and Cuba, “must be supported.”

In addition, the prelate noted that Cardinal George's visit will also “contribute to the relations” in between Cubans living in the U.S. and those living in the country. 

Archbishop Garcia added that, “Between bishops there is always an exchange about our respective churches and realities.  So we will discuss what we are doing.”

Cardinal George arrived in Cuba three days after a visit by the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who spent five days in the country meeting with officials from the Church and the Castro regime.  Cardinal George will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Santiago and will celebrate a Mass at the cathedral there. He will also visit the local community and the cemetery of St. Ifigenia, where Cuban national hero Jose Marti is buried.

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Middle Eastern aid agencies have 'great' expectations for upcoming synod

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Representatives from Vatican delegations and aid agencies working in the Middle East wrapped up the working sessions of the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO in its Italian abbreviation) on Thursday. According to the organizing Vatican congregation, expectations are "great" among the participants for October's Special Assembly for the Middle East.

The 83rd session of the ROACO is taking place in the Vatican this week.

Thusday's session, which centered on the situation in the Holy Land, was highlighted by addresses given by the Archbishop Antonio Franco, pontifical representative to Jerusalem in Israel, Palestine and Cyprus; Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land; as well as other experts who spoke of current issues in the region and initiatives being undertaken in support of Christians there.

A press release from the Congregation for the Oriental Churches noted a "significant willingness" of representatives over the course of the meetings "to guarantee a better future for Christians in the Holy Land and in the entire Middle Eastern region."

The congregation noted that discussions during the ROACO have highlighted certain priorities in support of pastoral, social, educative and assistance activities of the Church in the region and that special emphasis was given to the ecumenical and inter-religious challenges.

The communique also reported the great expectations of aid agencies for this fall's convocation of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. According to the congregation, "the very attentive acceptance of the Instrumentum Laboris constitutes an appreciable hope for an equally sincere analysis and of possible valid orientations for the Universal Church in confirmation of its solidarity towards Christians ..."

The Instrumentum Laboris, or “working document,” for October's synod provides an overview of the current situation of the Church in the Middle East as described and compiled by the leaders of local Churches themselves.

The ROACO closes on Friday with an audience between participants and Pope Benedict XVI.

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Chicago auxiliary installed as bishop of Springfield

Springfield, Ill., Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - In a two-hour Mass Tuesday morning, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

Over 1,000 people attended the Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

In his homily, Bishop Paprocki expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Francis George for installing him as bishop, as well as for his guidance over the years.

“It has been my privilege to serve him as Chancellor, as pastor of a parish, and as his auxiliary bishop for the past seven years,” he said. “In so many ways he has truly been a mentor for me, teaching me how to be a bishop, providing an example of how to be a good shepherd caring for the flock of our Lord’s faithful people.”

Noting that the installation Mass was taking place on the feast day of St. Thomas More,  Bishop Paprocki spoke about the heroic witness of the saint. Describing his own background in law, he explained, “A wise lawyer like St. Thomas More helped me to recognize that the law of the heart is love.”

“I see my primary task as bishop is to love you, more precisely, to radiate Christ’s love with the help of God’s grace throughout the twenty-eight counties of central Illinois that comprise the State of Illinois,” he said. “I come to our state capital not as a sort of Catholic lobbyist, but as a shepherd of souls.”

The bishop went on to say that he must proclaim the truth in order to radiate Christ's love. “Pope Benedict XVI made this connection between love and truth the focus of his encyclical letter, Caritas in Veritate,” he said.

“The second major task that I see for a Catholic bishop is to be the center of unity for the Christian community,” Bishop Paprocki said. He called to mind the famous speech of Abraham Lincoln, delivered in Springfield in 1858.

“Mr. Lincoln quoted the Bible in reminding people that a 'house divided against itself cannot stand,'” he said. Recalling President Lincoln's commitment to preserving the Union, he continued, “So also a bishop must make every effort to be a sign of unity among all Christians and solidarity among all the peoples of this world.”

Bishop Paprocki was born in Chicago in 1952. After his ordination as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1978, he studied law and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1981. He co-founded the South Chicago Legal Clinic to assist the poor in their need for legal services.

He went on to study canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and completed his doctoral degree in 1991.  He was appointed to serve as Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago in January, 2003.

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Mass, procession planned at Vatican for First Martyrs of Rome

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The annual celebration of the feast of the First Martyrs, or "Promartyrs," of the Church of Rome will be observed in a special way in the Vatican next week. The ceremony for the feast day will be carried out on the very ground where the martyrs, lost their lives at the bidding of Emperor Nero in the year 64 A.D.

According to a press release from the Pontifical Council for Culture, its president Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi will preside at Mass on June 30, followed by a Eucharistic procession.

The Eucharistic celebration will take place in the church of St. Maria della Pietà in Camposanto, which is adjacent to St. Peter's Basilica. The procession will begin in the church and end in the Square of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome just outside. In the square a headstone commemorates Nero's persecution and martyrdom of the first Christians in Rome.

The events are being organized by the Pontifical Academy “Cultorum Martyrum”. Those invited to participate include, religious orders present in the Vatican, representatives from the Order of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, priests, members of nearby parishes and all who wish to join in for the celebration of the first Roman martyrs.

On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. Members of a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will also participate in praying Vespers.

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Archbishop Chaput: Liturgical renewal should create martyrs’ love for the Mass

Chicago, Ill., Jun 24, 2010 (CNA) - Christian witness is intended to prepare for and to live the “cosmic liturgy” in which all mankind adores God, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput declared in a lecture on Thursday evening. Noting the cultural obstacles to liturgical understanding, he said the renewed liturgy should create Christians who would die rather than not celebrate Mass.

Delivering the Hildebrand Distinguished Lecture at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, the Archbishop of Denver praised Chicago’s “historic role” in the renewal of the liturgy and the evangelization of America. He said the 10th anniversary of the Liturgical Institute shows that this legacy continues.

He opened with a reflection on the respected liturgist and theologian Fr. Romano Guardini. Soon after the Second Vatican Council published its “groundbreaking” document on the liturgy, “Sacrosanctum Concilium,” the priest sent a letter to the Third German Liturgical Conference wondering whether man in an industrial and scientific age is “no longer capable of the liturgical act.”

“I think he put his finger on one of the key questions of mission in his time, and also in ours,” Archbishop Chaput remarked, explaining that the liturgical act is the transformation of personal prayer and piety into “genuine corporate worship” and “the public service that the Church offers to God.”

This act requires an inward awareness of the unity of the whole person, body and soul, with the spiritual body of the Church, present in heaven and on earth, he added.

“It also requires an appreciation that the sacred signs and actions of the Mass -- standing, kneeling, singing and so forth -- are themselves ‘prayer’.”

However, he warned, this awareness is obscured in a society organized around a “narrow” vision of technological progress in which truth is judged by what can be perceived and verified through research and experiment.

“In practice, almost nothing of what we believe as Catholics is affirmed by our culture,” commented the archbishop. “Even the meaning of the words ‘human’ and ‘person’ are subject to debate.”

This has implications for Catholic worship in which we profess to be in contact with “spiritual realities” and to receive the true Body and Blood of the Lord.

“We preach the good news that this world has a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin and death. What can our good news mean in a world where people don’t believe in sin or that there is anything they need to be saved from?” Archbishop Chaput asked. “What does the promise of victory over death mean to people who don’t believe in the existence of any reality beyond this visible world?”

The archbishop said Chicago priest Fr. Robert Barron is one of the few to have wrestled with such issues. For him, the liturgy is not to be shaped according to modern suppositions; rather, the liturgy should “question and shape the suppositions of any age.” While modern man is probably incapable of the liturgical act, this is no grounds for despair. Instead, we should “let the liturgy be itself,” the priest has said.

Archbishop Chaput agreed with Fr. Barron that in recent decades the “professional liturgical establishment” chose to shape the liturgy according to the world, which has proven to be “a dead end.” Seeking relevance through “a kind of relentless cult of novelty” has only resulted in confusion and division between the faithful and the true spirit of the liturgy, continued the archbishop.

He said liturgical renewal should build “an authentic Eucharistic culture” to instill “a new sacramental and liturgical sensibility that enables Catholics to face the idols and suppositions of our culture with the confidence of believers who draw life from the sacred mysteries ...”

To this end, the Archbishop of Denver offered several suggestions: the need to recover the “intrinsic and inseparable connection” between liturgy and evangelization; the need to see the liturgy as a participation in the “liturgy of heaven” where Christians worship “in Spirit and truth” with the Church and the communion of the saints; and the need to recover and live the early Christians’ “vibrant liturgical and evangelical spirituality.”

“Liturgy is both the source of the Church’s mission and its goal,” explained the prelate. “The reason we evangelize is in order to bring people into communion with the living God in the Eucharistic liturgy. And this experience of communion with God, in turn, impels us to evangelize.”

The “pedestrian” and self-focused nature of many contemporary liturgies results from the loss of the sense of this participation in the heavenly liturgy, he suggested.

“The Eucharist … is a cosmic liturgy that unites the worship of heaven with our own worship here on earth… Heaven and earth are filled with the glory of God,” he continued. Worship is a window through which “the reality and destiny of our lives is glimpsed.”

This truth should “make us strive for liturgies that are reverent and beautiful, and that point our hearts and minds to things above.” The ultimate purpose of Christian witness is to “prepare the way for the cosmic liturgy in which all humanity will adore the Creator.”

The archbishop encouraged the faithful to look to the early Christians, who found their identity in the liturgy and said “we cannot live without the Mass.”

“This is the kind of faith that should inspire our worship. And this is the kind of faith that our worship should inspire. Can we really say today that we’re ready to die rather than not celebrate the Mass?”

Describing the liturgy as “a school of sacrificial love,” he said that all Christians should see themselves as a Eucharistic offering, “a perfect offering holy and acceptable to God.”

“The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you make your lives a liturgy, when you live your lives liturgically -- as an offering to God in thanksgiving and praise for his gifts and salvation. You are the future of the liturgical renewal.”

Archbishop Chaput closed his lecture with the words of one of the dismissal prayers of the new Roman Missal: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

To read Archbishop Chaput's full lecture, click here.

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