Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) -
The world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero, Brazil has been re-inaugurated after four months of restoration work.
The large statue of Christ with his arms outstretched above Brazil’s second largest city is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It is currently illuminated with green and yellow lights to support the Brazilian World Cup soccer team.
The statue, which is one of the most recognized Catholic symbols worldwide, will be 80 years old next year.
The repairs fixed a series of leaks that were affecting the chapel located inside the base of the statue. Technicians reported removing 80 gallons (300 liters) of water from the inside of each of the statue’s arms. The structure was also rebuilt to protect it from lightning strikes.
The re-inauguration was commemorated by a Mass celebrated at the statue’s feet by Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janiero. The prelate expressed his gratitude for the completion of the work, which he said demonstrated “how human talent unites with the beauty of its own creation to offer us a singular monument of art and faith.”
New York City, N.Y., Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) -
Germany's Passion Play at Oberammergau – an event which only takes place every 10 years – was recently lauded by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Rabbi Gary Greenebaum as more balanced and less prone to what has been viewed as anti-Semitic stereotypes in the past.
Both the New York prelate and rabbi watched the play, which runs from May 15 to October 3, last Thursday in the Bavarian village where it has been performed for more than 400 years.
The Passion Play, considered to be one of the most famous in the world, supposedly began in the 1600s to thank God for preventing Oberammergau from undergoing the Black Plague. Held every 10 years, the event is performed by some 2,500 people, around half of the town's population.
In separate phone interviews, the two religious leaders told the Associated Press (AP) that this year's performance was more sensitive in avoiding what has been viewed as anti-Jewish stereotypes in past events.
“I have always been sensitive to Jewish concerns that the play could perpetuate the ancient and tragically unjust misunderstanding that the Jews are responsible for the killing of Jesus,” Dolan told the AP.
“But thanks to the courage of the directors, the villagers and the Jewish leaders,” he added, “the script has gradually been renewed.”
Rabbi Greenebaum, who heads the American Jewish Committee, agreed and said that Jewish groups had worked with the producers of the Oberammergau Passion Play since the 1970s. He lauded the 2010 version of the play, calling it “more balanced than ever before” and adding that “we need to appreciate the tremendous efforts that have gone into it.”
The play's director, Christian Stueckl, who has now led three of the performances, told the AP in May that wanted to emphasize Christ's Jewish roots in this year's production.
Archbishop Dolan described passion play as a “paradigm for the friendship of Jews and Catholics, it has shown low points in their relation in the past, but now it has also become a sign of great progress.”
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - A federal appellate court has reinstated a whistleblower’s lawsuit against Planned Parenthood affiliates in California charging that the organizations overbilled the state and federal governments more than $180 million for birth control drugs. Supporters of the suit were “elated” by the unexpected favorable ruling.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the affiliates’ state political action organization, is also named in the suit.
In its July 1 decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower court’s ruling that the whistleblower did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, the California Catholic Daily reports. The court remanded the case for further proceedings.
Previously, U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz ruled that the whistleblower Victor Gonzalez, former vice-president for finance and administration of Planned Parenthood-Los Angeles, did not qualify as a whistleblower under federal law because he was not the “original source” of information exposing the alleged fraud.
Gonzalez worked for Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles from December 2002 until March 2004. He said he was fired for bringing “illegal accounting, billing, and donations practices” to the attention of his superiors.
Jack Schuler, Gonzalez’s attorney in the district court case, explained to California Catholic Daily last year that the complaint documents “evidence of extensive, organized fraud by Planned Parenthood in California.”
He said a “previously buried and ignored” California Department of Health Services 2004 Audit found more than $5 million in “egregious overbilling” in two years by the San Diego/Riverside Planned Parenthood Affiliate.
“Here is the ultimate Hollywood movie set façade of a corporation that poses as charitable while grossly over-billing government programs funded to service the needy, not the greedy,” Schuler charged.
The attorney said that Planned Parenthood bought contraceptives and other medicines at deeply discounted rates because of its charitable status, then billed the state Medi-Cal program for 12 or more times the purchase price.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represented Gonzalez in the appeal, said the decision to continue the case was “a huge victory.”
“While this case is by no means over, winning this appeal means we have gotten the federal claim over the threshold hurdles and can now get down to the heart of this case: the alleged fraud,” Sekulow commented in a statement published on the ACLJ website.
According to Sekulow, the federal False Claims Act forbids government contractors from submitting “false or fraudulent” claims for payment and also authorizes private individuals to bring suit against the alleged offenders to recover the fraudulently obtained funds.
“State audits in both California and Washington State have found (Planned Parenthood) affiliates guilty of overbilling,” he commented.
According to Schuler, both state and federal law explicitly prohibited the kind of overbilling alleged until the California legislature changed state law in 2004 at Planned Parenthood’s request.
One observer close to the case told the California Catholic Daily that supporters of the suit thought there was “no chance” of a win in the Ninth Circuit, believing that Judge Mary M. Schroder would “definitely” rule in Planned Parenthood’s favor.
“At best we thought we might get maybe one vote. We are just elated by this decision.”
San Francisco, Calif., Jul 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican announced on Tuesday that the Holy Father appointed a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. A native Californian, Bishop-elect Robert W. McElroy will assist Archbishop George Niederauer in serving the region's 437,000 Catholics.
A native of San Francisco, Bishop-elect McElroy was born in 1954 and eventually moved to the East Coast, earning a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University. After returning to California to earn a Master's degree in History from Stanford University, the bishop-elect attended St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park. He was ordained a priest in the San Francisco Archdiocese in 1979 and named a monsignor in 1996.
In addition to serving in local parishes, Bishop-elect McElroy attended Gregorian University in Rome, earning a doctorate in Sacred Theology.
Earlier today, Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco praised the new auxiliary bishop in a statement, expressing gratitude at his appointment.
“I am most grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, for appointing Monsignor Robert McElroy as Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco,” wrote the archbishop.
“We in this Archdiocese are delighted that Monsignor McElroy’s gifts and zeal will be given even broader scope in serving the life of the Catholic Church and the community here.”
Bishop-elect McElroy currently serves at St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo. As auxiliary bishop, he will assist in leading 437,000 Catholics in the San Francisco Archdiocese, including 457 priests, 79 permanent deacons and 931 religious.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - The Argentinean daily La Nacion featured a story this week on the Dutch soccer player Wesley Sneijder, who scored the winning goal against Brazil in the World Cup quarter finals last week. The article revealed his conversion and baptism, which took place shortly before he traveled to South Africa for the tournament.
In an article entitled, “The Spiritual Goal of a Dutch Soccer Star,” journalist Mariano de Vedia said Sneijder arrived at the World Cup “completely renewed.”
“At the end of May he converted to Catholicism and was baptized in a chapel in Milan, where the brilliant soccer star plays for the Inter Soccer Team, receiving endless accolades. He was influenced in his decision by his girlfriend, Dutch actress and model Yolanthe Cabau, who was born in the Spanish city of Ibiza and who he has decided to marry in the Church after the World Cup ends.
“He was also inspired by his friendship with Javier Zanetti, his teammate and captain for Inter, who is himself a practicing Catholic,” the paper explained.
Sneijder said that he had recently attended a Mass with his teammates and was moved to embrace the faith. He signed up for catechism classes with Inter’s chaplain.
“In South Africa, he said he prays every day and goes to Mass on Sundays and receives Communion with Yolanthe. He wears a Rosary around his neck that she gave him as a gift,” the article states.
“The faith gives me strength,” Sneijder said. “My convictions often keep me strong and give me determination. Everyday I pray the Our Father with her. Before each game I always seek out a place to pray,” the soccer star added.
Sneijder's Dutch team plays against Uruguay later today in the World Cup's semi-finals.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - The president of the organization Professionals for Ethics, Jaime Urcelay, has criticized Spain’s new law on abortion which has now taken effect, saying it legitimizes the death of the most innocent—the unborn—and forces ideological-driven sexual education on schools.
“The first to be affected is the child whose life will be taken. But in addition, many women feel compelled either directly or indirectly to have an abortion for economic or professional reasons or out of pressure from family members or society,” he said.
Urcelay also warned that the new law attacks the right of health care workers to exercise conscientious objection and could force them to perform abortions. “Everything indicates that a registry of doctors who object to abortion, a sort of ‘black list,’ will be compiled, which in reality is threat to those who object,” he said.
In response to a section in the law that deals with sexual education and addresses the supposed “right to abortion” and “sexual diversity,” Urcelay called it “a new form of school indoctrination that parents must not allow because it violates our right to educate our children."
"For this reason," he declared, "as soon as we learn how this sexual education will concretely be implemented in schools, we will respond with all of the legal means at our disposal.”
Madrid, Spain, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Organizers for World Youth Day (WYD) Madrid 2011 launched a campaign today to encourage Spanish youth to officially register for the event in order to raise funds so that young people from emerging countries can attend.
Although participation in the main WYD events is voluntary and free, organizers hope to increase the number of Spanish youth who sign up as they will have the opportunity to make contributions to the Solidarity Fund, which will specifically assist young people from Latin America in attending.
WYD’s Communications Department filmed an appeal for the campaign at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, with the help of production company, Lee Films. The bilingual ad will be featured on the Internet, radio and TV.
Emilio Butragueño, Director of Institutional Relationships for the Real Madrid soccer team, who participated in the ad, stated that he is “proud to collaborate with this big worldwide gathering for the youth and we expect and desire that it is a great success.”
Organizers have also worked with around 300 volunteers, who have promoted the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Tuenti (Spain’s most popular social network). According to event coordinators, Madrid’s WYD already has more than 110,000 supporters in these networks.
Gabriel González-Andrío, Marketing Director for WYD, explained that “the campaign is international … and will be spread through digital media" because that's where the youth are.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
In an interview with the Globovision network, the secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Venezuela, Bishop Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate, strongly rejected the insults President Hugo Chavez made against Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas, whom the president called a “neanderthal,” a “bum” and a “disgraceful bishop.”
In recent days, Chavez responded to the criticism of the bishops on his television show saying, “May the devil receive you in his bosom.” Making the sign of the cross with his hand, Chavez said, “You all can dress like cardinals and bishops but you belong to the devil. You are the defenders of the most corrupt interests.”
“They know they are shamefully lying and this makes them a bunch of bums, a line of bums from the cardinal on down. They should get a job. They should go plant potatoes,” Chavez said. “The bishops: dirty politicians from the cardinal on down,” he added.
Speaking before the National Assembly, Chavez said Cardinal Urosa “doesn’t realize that the people can’t be manipulated anymore. He is a neanderthal. Let them send a message to the Pope: As long as we have these church leaders here, we will continue to keep our distance from the Church.”
“Communism and Christianity can go hand in hand,” Chavez claimed. “Then along comes this cardinal to scare the people about Communism, as if we had a Communist agenda. Could it be that this guy doesn’t realize that the Soviet Union is history?”
Bishop Gonzalez replied to Chavez's attacks by stating, “We wish to manifest our categorical rejection of the attacks made by the President yesterday during the Assembly.” “These attacks are precisely what the cardinal was criticizing, that a solemn act is used to attack others,” he said.
Bishop Gonzalez also rejected Chavez’s “request” that Pope Benedict XVI appoint a “Super Cardinal” for Venezuela, for which the president suggested Bishop Mario Moronta of San Cristobal. “When the intention is to intervene in every area, including in the decisions of the Holy Father, we must be attentive to the president’s pretensions for dominance,” Bishop Gonzalez added.
After explaining that when the Church’s hierarchy issues an opinion it does so to “enlighten the consciences of Venezuelans,” Bishop Gonzalez said Chavez’s statements have been met with rejection across the country as hundreds have called to voice their support for the cardinal.
He also announced that the Venezuelan bishops would be meeting on Wednesday to analyze the situation and issue a statement that will be “spiritual and not political.” “Unfortunately, the president considers anything that goes against his way of thinking to be a personal attack,” the bishop added. “The bishops’ position is not political, it is enlightened by the intentions of the Holy Father and is intended to enlighten all Venezuelans,” he said.
Bishop Gonzalez stressed that the naming of bishops is the exclusive prerogative of the Holy Father and that inference by the State into the internal affairs of the Church is “truly negative.”
Havana, Cuba, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - The coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, is demanding the Castro government not mislead the Cuban people about the reasons for which political prisoner Guillermo Farinas is on a hunger strike. The motive behind his strike, says Paya, is to demand respect for the human rights of all Cubans.
The official Communist daily Granma reported that Farinas, who is in a hospital in Santa Clara, is at risk of starving to death. Paya says the newspaper is hiding the fact that he is putting his life on the line in this way for the release of other prisoners of conscience.
“We must remember that Farinas is on a hunger strike in order to demand the release of those who are unjustly imprisoned for merely peacefully defending the rights of Cubans,” Paya explains.
The CLM leader also criticizes the government for “bragging” about how much it is paying to care for Farinas, noting that medical care “is paid for all Cubans by our work, our taxes and our poverty.”
La Plata, Argentina, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina has denounced the government for pressuring some senators, who had said they would vote against homosexual “marriage,” to skip debate on the measure or to abstain during the vote.
During his weekly television program, the archbishop addressed the upcoming July 14 debate on the measure in the Argentinean Senate and urged that “the silent majority in Argentina speak up and say what it thinks about this measure.” He praised Argentineans for organizing protests in different parts of the country “even though the media has not covered them like they deserved.”
The archbishop urged that protests continue so that it is made clear that “those of us who think the social fabric of Argentina should not be altered by the law Congress is considering are not small in number.”
He noted that many senators who promised to oppose the law are being pressured “to skip the debate and the vote or to abstain. That is, the current administration considers it an achievement to get this law passed and is using the means to do so that we all know about and that unfortunately have become commonplace in Argentinean politics.”
“For this reason the people need to protest,” he added. “None of the political parties whose lawmakers are supporting this law on homosexual marriage have included it in their party platforms. They are promoting something that is of no interest to the majority of the people and that has been put before the majority of the people for a vote. In what sense, then are they representing the people of the nation?” the archbishop asked.
“For this reason it is necessary that the silent majority, which is excessively patient and perhaps out of ignorance allows many things to slip by, must understand that this now deals with something of capital importance and must say: ‘No, this cannot be’.”
“What is at stake here is something essential for the future of Argentinean society,” the archbishop stressed. “Experts have already pointed out the consequences for the legal system, for the field of law, that this alteration of the family order will have. For this reason it is important that many people clearly voice their opposition to this,” he said.
Quezon City, Philippines, Jul 6, 2010 (CNA) - Despite suffering a legal setback, a group of 30 parents in the Philippines is pushing ahead in its appeal of the country's implementation of a United Nations-backed sex education program, which is aimed at children as young as nine years old.
On June 21, the parents had launched a petition to file a temporary restraining order against DepEd. Memo No. 261, a sex-ed initiative in the Philippines supported by the U.N. Population Fund. In addition to targeting children as young as nine, the bill seeks to inform on topics such as fertility reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention and family planning services, including contraceptive methods.
The program is being piloted in select schools around the country.
In their appeal, the parents argued that the legislation is unconstitutional as it violates the primary rights of parents to develop the moral character of their children. The parents also claimed that it was unnecessary for children as young as nine to be taught about reproductive health.
On July 5, a judge in a Quezon City court ruled against the parents' appeal, citing insufficient proof that their children attend any of the schools that are piloting the initiative. Because of this, stated the judge, the schools had not actually violated these specific parents' rights.
A lawyer for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), however, said that despite the judge's denial of the appeal the case will still advance though in court with a scheduled hearing later this month. According to the CBCP, more parents are planning to file additional charges against the program.
Parental opposition to government mandated sex education has also occurred recently in Spain, where the Socialist government is planning to launch what will be called Education for the Citizenry II: obligatory sex-education in all schools. The program will be based on the “educational” guidelines of the country's new law on abortion.