Vienna, Austria, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - Giving a talk before the kick-off of an international conference in Austria on the AIDS crisis, Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Lesley-Anne Knight stressed that Catholics need to underpin their efforts in the global fight against AIDS by reaching out with “compassion, communion and conscience.”
Dr. Knight spoke to participants in a meeting on July 16 regarding HIV in the run-up to the 17th annual International AIDS Conference, which began on July 18 in Vienna.
Speaking to 100 individuals from Catholic organizations from 23 countries, Knight said that the conference would offer opportunities for increasing development and collaboration in the worldwide effort to fight AIDS.
“We need to develop a much better understanding and appreciation of how the circumstances in which people live make them vulnerable to HIV infection, and powerless to prevent it,” she noted.
"Our compassion needs to extend to people who are marginalized by society: to groups such as injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, and prison populations.”
Patrick Nicholson, head of communications for Caritas Internationalis explained to CNA that Knight “is not saying that it is impossible for vulnerable and marginalized people to avoid HIV infection.” Rather, “she is saying that we need to develop a compassionate understanding of their circumstances so that we can find the best way to help them,” Nicholson added.
“She means ‘powerless’ in the sense that people are often unable to see a way out of their predicaments without the compassionate help of another person,” he explained. “Some of these groups, such as sex workers and prison populations, can also be rendered ‘powerless’ by the fact that they are vulnerable to rape.”
Knight continued in her talk to say that this dynamic “presents us with the challenge of coming to terms with the realities of life for people within these groups.”
“We need to be able to feel their suffering too and develop realistic solutions that will be effective in these diverse, difficult and complex contexts.”
The secretary general went on in her address to say that as Catholics, “we have much to share, but we also have an opportunity to listen and to learn. We don’t hold all the answers. We should participate in conferences such as this with open minds and hearts, seeking information to develop new solutions rather than reinforce entrenched ideas.”
“If we are to end the stigma of HIV infection and promote effective prevention strategies, we need to be able to enter into frank and honest dialogue about what are sometimes difficult issues for us to talk about,” she continued.
“HIV/AIDS presents many moral dilemmas. Listening to our conscience is not always easy; it often requires us to confront uncomfortable truths, to challenge our prejudices, to accept criticism, to move out of our comfort zones.”
“The three Cs - compassion, communion, and conscience should underline a Catholic approach that fosters dialogue, cooperation, and an openness on how best to respond to the AIDS pandemic,” Knight underscored.
New Dehli, India, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - Despite increased persecution, vocations to the priesthood in the north region of India are continuing to grow. Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar Diocese in the state of Madhya Pradesh reported that the number of candidates to the priesthood in his diocese has been on the rise for the past decade.
“When the diocese started in 1968 as an exarchate there were only 600 Catholics and three priests – now we are (at) 35,” he told the news agency for the pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
India’s Minister for International Affairs reports that Madhya Pradesh had 654 religious-related violent incidents in 2009, the second-highest in the country.
Bishop Chirayath noted that it has taken courage for young people to step forward to serve in the Church in the face of violence and family circumstances. “They know, after (violence in) Orissa, that there are persecutions and these incidents – the killing of priests and sisters – are all known to every young man or woman.
“But in spite of that they come forward to be priests or sisters.”
“In some cases only - children come forward – it takes courage to proclaim Jesus to the non-Christian world, it is a challenge,” the bishop continued.
He noted that although many religious sisters have been attacked, sexually assaulted, or killed, young women too are answering their vocational calls.
“There are still plenty of vocations, God has blessed us,” commented Bishop Chirayath.
The bishop heads a diocese in the Syro-Malabar Church, an Eastern church in full communion with the Pope. Many vocations come from the southwestern state of Kerala where the Syro-Malabar community is particularly strong, ACN News reports.
“We are sons of Saint Thomas – part of a tradition of faith stretching back 2,000 years,” the bishop said. He credited both the prevalence of family devotions like the Rosary and youth involvement in social and religious activity as factors which encourage vocations.
Bishop Chirayath said that when he became bishop four years ago, the diocese lacked a minor seminary and students were placed under the parish priest.
The new St. Mary’s Minor Seminary, built a few miles from the bishop’s residence, can accommodate 15 students but currently has 25 minor seminarians living there. It has four classrooms, a library and small offices for teachers but still needs a chapel and a dining room.
The bishop called the minor seminary “an essential element in the formation of future priests.”
Prospective priests enter the minor seminary for three years after high school, before going through one year of intense spiritual formation at centers in neighboring dioceses. They then spend three years at the major seminary, where they receive intensive training in Hindi, English and basic theology. They also study to enter university so they can secure a philosophy degree.
ACN is providing more than $23,000 for the construction of the seminary chapel, which will be able to accommodate 60 people.
“In a proper chapel we can give them a proper liturgical formation – in a chapel where there is the Blessed Sacrament, a crucifix and so on,” Bishop Chirayath told ACN News, deeming a place of prayer to be “central.”
Washington D.C., Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - Claiming that the Obama administration is not presenting the strongest possible defense of the National Day of Prayer, several groups have filed requests that they be allowed to join the defense against what they see as an attempt to “scrub” the observance from the public square.
In April U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled a law allowing the president to declare the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. Critics of the ruling objected that the practice was part of America’s heritage.
The case is now being reviewed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council (FRC), said that the Justice Department brief “doesn't go far enough in defending the National Day of Prayer.”
“The President's attorneys failed to cite any of the key cases that would require immediate dismissal of this lawsuit because the plaintiffs lack standing to bring it. FRC plans to mount a robust defense of this important national event that a liberal judge has attempted to scrub from the public square," Perkins commented in a press release.
Ken Klukowski, director of the FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty and lead counsel for the FRC amicus brief in the case, discussed Obama administration officials’ recent habit of defending the “freedom to worship.” He said the First Amendment right to freedom of religion “goes far beyond just worship.”
According to Klukowski, FRC is asking the court to allow it to participate to ensure “a vigorous defense” against a lawsuit which claimed to be unconstitutional “a tradition as old as this country itself.”
“It is our hope that the Court will recognize that the American people deserve and expect their elected leaders to vigorously defend our constitutional right to religious freedom,” he reported.
Klukowski argued that the courts cannot ban free expression by citizens who participate in the National Day of Prayer because “such participation is not imposed.”
“Neither the Constitution nor the (National Day of Prayer) itself require any religious activity by anyone, anywhere. So, if permitted, we intend to present a convincing case that this is a perfect example of a harassing lawsuit that should have been dismissed at the outset,” he explained.
The FRC motion for argument is joined by The Liberty Institute and more than a dozen other family groups.
Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The archdiocesan phase of Fr. Stanley Rother's cause for canonization came to a close in a Mass this week at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City. The local archbishop expressed his conviction during the homily that the missionary is both a martyr and a saint.
Fr. Rother spent 13 years in Guatemala as a parish priest in Santiago Atitlan, a small town caught up in the country's civil war in the 1970s and 80s. Aware that his life was in danger he returned to Oklahoma in Jan. 1981, but went back to Guatemala months later after recognizing that his heart was with the people.
He was assassinated on July 28, 1981 by three men who broke into the mission rectory.
Fr. Rother's cause for canonization was initiated in Oct. 2006 when Archbishop of Oklahoma City, Most Rev. Eusebius J. Beltran, commissioned a committee to collect information about his life and the circumstances that led to his death. He also contracted a canon lawyer, Dr. Andrea Ambrosi, to act as postulator in Rome.
Ambrosi's law firm specializes in causes for beatification and canonization. Incidentally, they are also managing the cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who will be beatified by the Pope on Sept. 19.
Extensive documentation has been compiled on the life and service of the Oklahoma priest which has been verified by an archdiocesan tribunal. Just this week, it was consigned to Ambrosi, thus beginning the "Roman phase" of the cause.
During Tuesday's Mass, Archbishop Beltran remembered Fr. Rother as a country priest sent on mission to Guatemala, where "he served faithfully and zealously, bringing the Good News of Jesus to the poor in a simple but powerful manner.
"Totally dedicated to God and to his people, Father Rother preached the Gospel with love and conviction. It was this faithful teaching and living the Word of God which made him a target of hatred and evil," said the archbishop.
Citing a "spontaneous outpouring of prayer and devotion," in Guatemala and in the U.S. since his death, Archbishop Beltran said, "We believe and we are convinced that Father Rother was martyred and is now a saint in heaven."
To make beatification possible, the postulator must now prove to the Vatican congregation for saints that Fr. Rother was killed solely for his faith, that his death was violent and that he accepted such a death for the faith.
Los Angeles, Calif., Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coadjutor Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has written a letter bidding farewell to Fr. Ramon Salas Cacho, an exemplary priest who tragically died in a car accident on July 9. In his letter, the archbishop expressed his sympathy and hope in God, praising the courageous testimony of Fr. Salas and the priest's total commitment to his mission.
“For those who have faith, we know, as St. Paul says, that everything happens for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). There are events in our lives, however, episodes that remind us that accepting this truth is not always easy,” the archbishop wrote. “One of them has been the departure to Eternal Life of a priest friend, whose entire life was an affirmation of the Year of Priests we have just brought to a close: Fr. Ramon Salas Cacho, who completed his journey among us on July 9.”
The priest, who was the vicar of the prelature for Opus Dei in Mexico City, died at the age of 57. He had served as a priest for 25 years.
“Ramon, how are you?’ I would often ask him each time I had the chance to visit Mexico City,” the archbishop continued in his letter. “‘Will you come with me to the Villa to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of Guadalupe?’ I would invariably ask him. And the generosity of his response was equally invariable: ‘Absolutely! I’ll pick you up at the airport and we’ll go pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe.’”
“The last time we were together at the feet of Our Lady, he turned to me with his usually spiritual joy and said, ‘It’s so great to pray with Our Lady of Guadalupe',” the prelate recalled.
“His more than 25 years of priesthood were marked by a profound life of prayer, the devout celebration of the Holy Eucharist and untiring attention to the spiritual needs of so many men and women who came to him to be reconciled with God through the sacrament of Confession or to seek out counsel and wisdom through spiritual direction,” Archbishop Gomez noted.
He also praised Fr. Ramon’s leadership in the apostolic work of Opus Dei in various Mexican cities, “giving men and women, single and married, young and old, a new hope of spiritual life. And always with a smile and with the simplicity of a normal and fulfilling life,” the archbishop said.
Fr. Ramon showed throughout his life “the authenticity of a priestly life that is worthy of imitation for me and for my brother priests,” he added.
“May my good friend and brother Fr. Ramon rest in peace. Let us appeal to his intercession, that he will continue accompanying us on our earthly journey until at the end of our lives we can meet with him again in the presence of the Lord our God and the company of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Archbishop Gomez concluded.
Asunción, Paraguay, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - The vice president of Paraguay, Federico Franco, said this week that if he were president, he would veto any law allowing same-sex “marriage,” because of the harm it would bring children raised in such an environment.
“During the campaign I was asked about homosexual marriage, and I might add that I am also against abortion because of my Christian convictions,” Franco said. He then underscored that his opposition to gay “marriage” is because he considers “marriage to be a sacrament, the cornerstone of society, and out of defense of children.
“I say selfishness must not prevail over the interests of society,” he added.
“A law of this nature must not be passed,” Franco continued. “Can you fathom the harm we would be doing to a child who grows up in a homosexual marriage" when other children "find out and question him or her about it?" he asked.
For this reason, he added, “If I were president, the veto (of a law on homosexual ‘marriage’) would be total and absolute.”
“I am a Christian and I want the people know how Federico is going to act, because I have always tried to be as consistent as possible,” he asserted.
Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - On the heels of an effort to review the country’s accords with the Vatican, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has now set his sights on the Catholic channel, Vale TV, which the Archdiocese of Caracas has operated since 1998.
Chavez has ordered the Minister of the Interior, Tareck El Aissami, to review the granting of Vale TV to the archdiocese by former President Rafael Caldera.
“I have ordered a review so that we can repossess the channel and put it at the service of the nation,” Chavez said. “I said we need to recover that channel and put at the service of the people and not the cardinal,” he repeated in a recent speech.
Vale TV, a non-profit television station, issued a statement saying what is at stake is not only its work in “producing and broadcasting content, but also doing so in a way that guarantees editorial independence, plurality ... ratings, self-management, and financial sustainability.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - After an Italian media report exposed sexual activity by gay priests in Rome, the Vicariate of Rome responded quickly by calling on all priests who are leading such "double lives" to come out and leave the priesthood for the good of the Church community.
The Italian weekly magazine Panorama ran a feature story on Friday morning titled, "The wild nights of gay priests." The article tracks three supposed priests, monitoring their behavior in gay nightclubs and soliciting them for sexual encounters by way of male prostitutes hired by the magazine.
The author, Carmelo Abbate, claims to have everything on tape, including the sexual acts and the same priests celebrating Mass. Panorama, considered a socialist magazine, has set up priests before using false requests for the Sacrament of Confession to "poll" what they teach on moral or political issues and then publish the results.
In response to Friday's story, the Vicariate of Rome, the office which assists the Pope in running the Diocese of Rome, released a message stating that "the purpose of the article is obvious: to create scandal, defame all priests ... discredit the church and - in another way - put pressure on that part of the Church defined by them as 'intransigent, that strives not to face the reality' of homosexual priests."
Not denying the information in the article, the vicariate said that the Church community cannot help but feel "sorrow and dismay" at seeing the report, knowing its priests intimately "not by their 'double lives,' but with a 'single life,' happy and joyful, consistent with their vocation, given to God and the service of the people, committed to living and witnessing to the Gospel and model of morality for all."
Because the Panorama article painted the 1,300 priests of the Diocese of Rome using gross generalizations, the vicariate replied that the essence of the Church of Rome is not found in those with "'double lives,' who haven't understood what 'Catholic priesthood' (is) and should not have become priests."
"Know," the statement continued, "that no one forces them to remain priests, exploiting only the benefits."
"Coherence would require them to come into the open. We don't wish to hurt them, but we cannot accept that due to their behavior the integrity of the all the rest might be tarnished."
"Before such facts," the vicariate asserted, "we firmly adhere to what the Holy Father Benedict XVI has repeated several times in recent months: 'the sins of priests' call us all back to conversion of heart and life and to be vigilant so as not to 'pollute the faith and Christian life, damaging the integrity of the Church, weakening her capacity of prophecy and testimony, tarnishing the beauty of her face'."
Vatican City, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Pope Benedict XVI's vacation time is now being dedicated to writing the third volume in what could safely be called the "Jesus of Nazareth" series. The new work will seek to shed light on the story of Jesus' childhood from the Gospels.
Fr. Federico Lombardi "broke" the official news in his weekly "Octava dies" editorial program for Vatican television although news had already spread that the Holy Father was working on an addition to the first two books. Some Italian journalists had reported that it would be a book, others a mere appendix to the previous two volumes. Fr. Lombardi referred to it as a "volume."
Following a first book on Jesus' public ministry and a second on the Passion and Resurrection, the Vatican spokesman said that "Benedict XVI has now laid his hands on the third and final part, dedicated to the 'Gospels of childhood'."
It will concentrate on the accounts of Jesus' early life from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Fr. Lombardi also said that the second book of the "Jesus of Nazareth" series is now being translated and is expected to be released in Spring 2011.
On the significance of the Pope's work on the new volume, Fr. Lombardi pointed out, "It's clear ... how close it is to his heart to bring this great design started years ago to a close."
The Vatican spokesman recalled the "crucial importance" given to the first volume during the bishops' synod in Oct. 2008 on the "Word of God," when various speakers referred to it as "a model of theological and spiritual reading of the Gospels" and "a guide for believers to find - through the Gospels - the person of Jesus."
Fr. Lombardi hoped for a similar the result of the third volume, exclaiming, "Take us to meet Jesus!"
He concluded by noting that through the Pope’s dedication to the Church and the faithful, even during his "holidays," we can see that we are "at the heart" of his service.
According to Fr. Lombardi, during the first two weeks of his summer vacation, the Pope also revisited one of the volumes of his "Opera omnia," the collection of his life works which have begun to be published in German and Italian.
Madrid, Spain, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - The Alares Foundation in Spain recently signed an agreement with organizers of World Youth Day Madrid to recruit volunteers to assist the more than 10,000 young people with disabilities expected to attend the event.
Marieta de Jaureguizar of the WYD press office noted that there will be specialized training for the volunteers selected to work in this capacity. She added that the Alares Foundation will operate a 24-hour phone line to address concerns of those providing special assistance to the young pilgrims.
More than 10,000 attendees with disabilities are expected to attend World Youth Day 2011.
Vatican City, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Coins bearing the image of Pope Benedict XVI are now in open circulation within Vatican walls. As of this month, Vatican visitors will find that 50 cent pieces are being given as change at places such as the gas station, pharmacy and post office.
Since the Vatican accepted the euro in Jan. 2002, the only coins bearing the Pope's visage available were those sold as part of a collection. Now, as the result of a Dec. 2009 accord between the European Union and the Holy See, approximately two million 50 cent pieces have been minted for circulation.
According to the fine print of this agreement, reported France's I-Media, the Vatican was obligated to put at least 51 percent of the nominal value of its coinage in circulation. However, in order to protect value in the important trade of collections, the 50 cent coins are the only ones in circulation and they will only be given out in pairs: two per customer.
Coins of seven other denominations are available in the collector's set, from nominal values of one cent to the two euro coin.
Allowing circulation of only the 50 cent piece protects the value of coin collectors' purchases, sold and resold at prices above their nominal value, and may give visitors a pleasant surprise as they shop around the Vatican. The coins are being given as change at places such as the Vatican gas station, pharmacy and post office.
The coin features the image of Pope Benedict on one side along with the words "Citta del Vaticano 2010."
Rome, Italy, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Legionaries of Christ has made public the decree that describes the powers given to Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, Pope Benedict XVI’s delegate to the religious congregation. The delegate, whose primary task will be to conduct the revision of the order's constitutions, will have full authority over Legion superiors and will coordinate the apostolic visitation of the Regnum Christi Movement.
Pope Benedict’s June 16 letter appointing Archbishop De Paolis notes the “need and urgency of a path of in-depth revision of the Institute’s charism.” He gave the archbishop the responsibility of governing the Legion “for as long as it takes to complete its path of renewal” and to lead it to an extraordinary general chapter to revise its constitutions.
A decree explaining the further details of the delegate’s duties was issued on July 9 by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, with Pope Benedict’s approval. According to the Regnum Christi website, the general council of the Legionaries of Christ received the decree on July 21. The Legion released an unofficial English translation on Friday.
The decree says the “paramount task” of the delegate was the completion of the revision of the institute’s constitutions, an effort which requires a “profound knowledge” of the congregation.
When the members of the Apostolic Visitation completed their review of the order last May, they indicated in a statement that the head of the commission to revise the order's constitutions could be separate from the papal delegate, but the decree published today announces that Archbishop De Paolis will be president of the commission.
The decree states that “All members of the Institute must collaborate in the revision of the Constitutions, both as individuals and communities.”
Further, the decree notes that the authority of the papal delegate “covers the entire institute” and extends “over all the superiors at the various levels … all communities, and the individual religious.” The superiors of the Legion of Christ are to “act in communion” with the delegate, who is to be informed about both the life of the institute and the “most important matters.”
Only the delegate can approve the decisions of the congregation’s general government, including decisions about admission to seminary or the priesthood and transfer of personnel; apostolic and formation choices concerning seminaries and academic institutions; and decisions concerning both “extraordinary” administrative matters or the disposal of assets.
“Everyone has open access to the Delegate and all can deal personally with him,” the decree states. “The Delegate, in turn, has the power to intervene wherever he sees fit, including in the internal government of the Institute, on all levels.”
The delegate will have four personal advisors to assist his work in identifying, discussing and clarifying the principal issues. When necessary, he may appoint study committees using either internal Legion personnel or “competent external persons.”
Local and regional superiors of the Legionaries of Christ remain in office for as long as the Holy See sees fit, the decree says. Appeals against acts of the superiors of the Legion are to be directed to the papal delegate himself. In turn, acts of the delegate can be appealed to Pope Benedict.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA) - Salvadoran columnist Julia Regina de Cardenal has denounced UNICEF for sponsoring a television program that promotes unethical behavior and promiscuity to children.
“Why are international organizations obsessed with investing such sums of money to pervert our children?” she asked in a column for the Salvadoran daily, Hoy. As an example, Cardenal pointed to the money spent on advertising during a television program that “promotes promiscuity, prostitution as a way of earning a living for young women, homosexuality and all forms of sexual disorder.”
“The grim message to teens is that sex is a game that must be experienced in the search for pleasure, without any concern for the consequences of physical, psychological, mental, spiritual, social and cultural health,” she warned.
El Salvador is going through “a frightening and unbearable crisis of violence, terrorism and brutality never before seen,” Cardenal continued. For this reason it is crazy and unacceptable that UNICEF - which claims to protect children - is sponsoring a program that is so damaging to society, the family and the dignity of the person.”
UNICEF is “not looking at the true needs of Salvadoran children” in the areas of heath, nutrition, security and education, she continued, noting that foundations that promote such programs receive no answer when they request financial assistance. “Is there only money available to promote unethical behavior? This is the most destructive thing they can do,” she said.
She also criticized authorities for allowing “this kind of perversion on children’s television,” and encouraged parents to call or write to express their dissatisfaction with the program.
Lancaster, England, Jul 23, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A new website has been created to defend Pope Benedict XVI from media attacks ahead of his arrival in Great Britain this coming September. The site aims to offer information to provide the Pope with protection using prayer, truth and law.
Protectthepope.com went live this month as a project of a permanent deacon of England's Diocese of Lancaster, Nick Donnelly, and his brother Stephen. Deacon Donnelly also writes for the Catholic Truth Society and the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Voice of Lancaster.
The website, the deacon explained in the first entry from July 12, "has been developed in response to the unprecedented level of hostility and misinformation disseminated by the mainstream media and new media."
In part, the site hopes to raise awareness of protections in civil law for the freedom of religion and to inform the faithful of options to counter religious hatred.
"Its important," he wrote, "to know that we no longer have to suffer this type of abuse in silence as we did in the past but can now call on the Law to protect us as religious believers."
The deacon's intention is also to "protect the Holy Father’s reputation and the truth of the Catholic Church" by endeavoring to "challenge the lies with the simple truth, especially about the person and actions of Pope Benedict XVI."
Examples of his work can already be seen in the site's nearly 20 entries addressing negative information on the Pope's visit from news reports, protests, petitions and other statements.
A post from July 22 took on the accusations against Pope Benedict XVI contained in the e-petition to the U.K. government from gay activist Peter Tatchel. The activist had asked the prime minister to disassociate himself from the Pope's beliefs on a number of issues. Deacon Donnelly refuted the supposed "crimes" committed by Benedict XVI one-by-one, offering information clarifying the Pope's positions and countering Tatchel's theses.
It was recently noticed that the e-petition filed on 10 Downing Street's website was shut down by the Cameron government, who confirmed the Pope's trip as an official state visit.
In addition to ensuring that the Pope is protected through information channels, Deacon Connelly also invited "all Catholics to pray for the safety of the Holy Father, for the pastoral and spiritual success of his visit, and for the good of the Church in this country."